Hi everyone! I’m finally feeling motivated to post more on my blog, so now I’m searching through all my writing and just posting everything I deem worthy of being on the internet (ha). I have a ton of pieces I’d love to just get out there, and damn it, I’m doing it. So I hope you stay awhile – this is about to get messy.
Beyond The Surface is a piece I wrote my senior year of high school and is very different than my usual style. I usually lean towards the horror genre, but this piece manifested into a very philosophical and psychological style which I’m very happy with. I definitely still have plenty of editing to do on this piece (especially at the end because it’s very rushed…something I had to do to get the assignment in on time) but I still think it’s a good piece to share. If you have any thoughts or suggestions, feel free to comment below! Thanks so much for your support and I hope you enjoy my work.
Synopsis: Ingrid Harrington is a woman with a very special gift – she has the ability to interpret deep emotion and creative texts in a world ruled by science and facts – in a world where people can’t even fathom the ideas of fantasy or intricate feeling. With this, Ingrid must find a way to enlighten those around her before her ability falls into the wrong hands.
Beyond The Surface
In this world, everything is different. Expect everything is the same. A word on a page is merely a word, and a flower in a field is merely a flower. The existence of emotion is portrayed on the surface of all that’s currently known. We know much littler than we did long ago. But that ancient knowledge is not something you learn from a word that is merely on a page, or from the sight of a single lily dancing in a field. It is underneath those tiny, printed letters, and inside the fluid running through the veins of its leaves. But, only I can see what is not just simply on the surface. Only I can read past the blank stares of the faces that demand me of my knowledge. I tried to hide it. Tried to push it deep within myself, but I couldn’t resist seeing and hearing what was right in front of me. I can’t not interpret what is beyond the surface of all that life presents to me. And that’s what they fear. For they cower in the face of something they do not understand, or cannot experience themselves. But to gain my freedom, I must enlighten them. I must.
“ ‘Love is a smoke raised with the fume of sighs; Being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers’ eyes; Being vexed, a sea nourished with loving tears. What is it else? A madness most discreet, A choking gall, and a preserving sweet’?” I muttered to myself as I shuffled through the pages of the Shakespearian play, Romeo and Juliet. Now how can I make this understandable to them… It’s even difficult for me to understand… I set the book aside and reached for my notebook that I recorded my translations in. I began to write. “Love is a smoke…raised from the fumes of sighs…meaning Love is mysterious, and unpredictable. Being purged, a fire sparkling in a lover’s eyes…translates to The mystery of love is revealed by that of a significant other… being vexed, a sea nourished with loving tears… being tricked, bursting with feeling from the sadness of a loved one. What is it else? What else can it be? A madness most discreet, a choking gall, and a preserving sweet… Love can put one in a state of mind in which they feel crazy… some are inhibited by it, and some are nourished by it…” I continued to mumble and relay each and every word back in my mind as I carefully wrote down my explanations on paper. Deciphering these books was something I was required to do, for the sake of disclosing the secrets of the past, as well as revealing more about my ability. Depending on what I was reading, I actually did receive some joy from the work, but after combing through hundreds of novels, it’s drained almost every ounce of pleasure I gained from doing so willing. But, maybe once my condition is explained, and others finally begin to see as I do, I will be free of this.
“Ingrid darling, are you still working on your studies?” The voice of Rozella floated down the spiraling staircase into the library. My prison. Or, just a library, if I were to see it as they do. Which I do not.
“Yes Ma’am.” I called up, carefully shuffling To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men in my hands. These books had been written in an era before my own, in which all had the foresight as I had. When words weren’t merely words. When dreams, adventures, and magic were actually comprehensible. I looked up once more from my books when I heard the clicking of Rozella’s heels tapping roughly against the wooden staircase. The sunlight, rather, the only source of light within the whole room, cast down upon three 50-foot wall rugs hanging from the very top of book shelves, just under the staircase. The library, in itself, was very large, containing hundreds, if not thousands of books in which hadn’t been touched for centuries. It was sad, oh so very sad, to see these books suffer. Their pages torn, bindings encased with dirt, their titles almost entirely faded. I felt as if I were one with these books, considering the tears in my white cotton blouse and brown corduroy pants, my hands callused and sprinkled with scars from paper cuts due to endless hours of flipping through pages. To them, I was something more. Different, somewhat alien. This, of course, makes them think as if I do not require the same needs as they do. Or maybe they know, but do not care, for I am a threat. A gloriously intriguing, precious threat.
I can see it in their eyes, when they take me above my prison and place me in a metal chair, strapping my wrists and ankles down. Their lips are tight together, and sweat pools just slightly in their pores as they hold a simple scene in front of me. They always ask of me, What do you see? I see a sad flower in a field, wilting away in sorrow as the winter cloud storms in, threatening to freeze the little bout of life to death. My answer seems easy, and forthright, but they just stare at me in bewilderment, their hands progressively shaking as they hold the paper to my face. But, it is just a flower, and a cloud, in a field, what can you see that we cannot, you delusional wretch! And I just shake my head and respond. You are choosing not to see what is clearly in front of you. And when those words are produced I am often struck, heat rises from my cheeks when I am, turning beet red. I don’t cry, even though I feel the pain. Because if I cried, they’d know I had felt something. Tears, to them, is sadness. And they relish in my sadness, so I don’t let them see it, even though it is clearly there. But they are blind, unlike me.
Rozella continues down the steps and I find myself trembling with excitement. She never came downstairs without the gift of soft linen in her hands, or a set of new blouses to wear.
“And to what do I owe this pleasure?” I stated as Rozella walked carefully towards me, stepping over piles and piles of books scattered across the creaking floorboards. She had no new linen in her arms, nor did her expression display any sign of good conscious.
“I’m curious of your progress, it looks like you’ve been busy,” She states with a smile, her deep, coarse voice running over my skin like a frigid breeze. I stood, the books shaking in my arms. She rarely ever comes down here… and you haven’t been out for ages. Now’s the time to say something… just take a deep breath.
“I cannot progress when I am nearly allowed a breath of fresh air.” I whispered, my eyes flitting up to meet Rozellas.
“Darling, we all know what happens when I give that air to you. You’re here for your own protection. You know what they’d do to you if you left… I couldn’t bear seeing you in pain,” Rozella sighed and took a few steps closer to me, carelessly crushing a novel underneath her feet. I looked away from her. She didn’t understand it. She didn’t understand anything. Continue pushing, little by little…
“I try to spread my wings and fly into the distance to grace others with my presence. Those who actually wish to see the magic, adventure, and deeper knowledge of the world, but you simply hold me down and cage me like an animal.” I frowned and the warmth in Rozella’s features turned to bewilderment, as always. Whenever I talked about leaving, or doing something other than my studies, her bit of kindness would wash away completely, like a lily in a rain storm.
“Ingrid, you lack wings, and you are not an animal. This is a library, not a cage, and this deeper knowledge you speak of? Does it consist even more so of your delusion?” My delusion? It’s humorous that she could think such in thing when all my delusions are explained in the books around me. Around us. Expect only I am able to understand their supposed gibberish.
“Right. I forget that I am the only one who can see clearly.” I muttered, as quiet as a mouse. I could just feel her emotion, swirling around me. Whenever she got this way, angry, frustrated, anything negative… I could feel every drop of it. Any time I tried to stand up to her, I felt as if her energy would put its hands on my shoulders, and push me knee deep into the floorboards. I could feel it now, a tension running up my calves and into my lower back as I stand before her.
“Which still seizes to make sense. Considering all of this ancient text…” Rozella opened her arms and beckoned to the all the bookcases spread across the library. She proceeded closer to me, and eventually stood directly before me. I was in the floorboards now. She shifted her head down, her thin red lips turned up, bringing little wrinkles across her laugh lines. She brought her hand to my chin and tilted it up carefully for me to meet her gaze. I could feel chills scatter across my skin the instant she touched me. Her touch was always cold. There were few moments in my lifetime that she made contact with me, other than in my youth. She was warmer then. But my ability has caused that warmth to fade.
“Ingrid. Just tell me. Tell me how you do it.” She said with that sparkle in her eyes. I could feel it. The desire for power pouring out her pores, curling ever so slightly around my throat. Ever since she had taken me away from that orphanage fifteen years ago, I knew she wasn’t just looking for a daughter. With no extended family connected to my name, and the untimely deaths of both my mother and father, I was the perfect vessel to take in. Not for love. Not for family. Not for kinship. But for science. Power. Her learning of my ability just added to her drive for knowledge. But now, she desired so much more than that. Me. My mind, my “abnormal yet beautiful curse”, she called it. Regardless of her seeing me as her daughter, or trying very poorly to treat me as such, I knew the truth.
“It is not something to tell.” I sighed, and bit my lip, no longer meeting her gaze. Rozella narrowed her eyes. And now there it was. Thought. Complexity. Confusion though, so very confused. But she was hiding it, rather, trying to. Many, many times she has asked me this very same question, and every time, I respond with the same answer. But there was something different this time. I could just barely see that she was grinding her teeth, a pulsing vein pumped blood vigorously up the side of her temple, one, two, three beats, quick. Not calm, far from it. Her hold on my face tightened ever so slightly, her nails just beginning to breach my discomfort mark.
“You’re angry.” I sputtered.
“No such thing has been spoken, nor been displayed. I am not angry.”
“You know I’m telling the truth.” I broke free from the floorboards, from her, and flattened out my blouse, wiping the sweat from my palms as I did so.
“But how do you know? Because you do know, and that’s what I do not understand. Do you know what we could do with your ability? We could practically read the minds of any person who stands in the face of science. We could help people… Ingrid…” She trailed off, her eyes wide and lips slightly parted. She no longer looked angry. She looked more like a savage animal, salvia dripping from her chomps as she gazed upon her prey. That prey being me, of course… a bird with clipped wings shivering in the corner. But, now I step forward into the sunlight, embracing its warmth.
“Don’t call me that you foolish girl…”
“Well I’m not going to call you ‘Mother’ …because that is something you’re far from.” I blurted out. Oh no. You actually said that… I can’t believe… I can’t believe I said that… but this feeling, fluttering through my chest. It feels good. The ravenous energy swirling around Rozella instantly sunk down from her chest and wrapped firmly around her ankles, keeping her in place for a moment. Her hunger dwindled. She furrowed her eyebrows and crossed her arms. Now she, stepped back.
“You must truly be delusional. I am your non-biological Mother. I raised you, Ingrid. Changed you, fed you, even rocked you in the middle of the night when you sobbed for little to no reason…” Keep saying it; let that feeling within your chest fuel you Ingrid. You deserve to defend yourself…I deserve, to defend myself.
“E-excuse me? There was a reason. Nightmares.”
“Nightmares… You’re speaking of the hallucinations people had long ago when they slept… when their minds were filled with so many senseless, meaningless ideas that they spilled out from their unconscious…” Keep going.
“Y-yes. And you wouldn’t know the terror. None of you would. You don’t dream, don’t imagine, don’t pray for forgiveness…” I could feel tears well up within me, but I pushed them away. I can’t break now.
“Pray?” her anger returned. Anytime I spoke of prayer, or of a God her composure would crack. None of them, those who couldn’t see beyond the surface like myself, believed in the reality of a God. Since they couldn’t see them, or talk to them directly, they clearly weren’t real. If science couldn’t prove it, it didn’t exist. And considering all the things Rozella has done to me, and how infuriated she gets when things don’t work out according to her calculations, science couldn’t prove me either. But God… could. “It may be time to run a couple more tests, your mental state seems to have depreciated since our last trials…” She said. I shook my head. Defenses shattered. My arms began to shake. Heart racing. Eyes widen, but close, keep them closed. Stay blank, stay blank, she can’t see it, can’t see it. But the tests. Countless, countless tests. Needles… being inserted into my forearm, my chest, my skull. Shocks, running up and down my skin. Dozens of different medications, sedatives, narcotics, anything to scientifically prove my condition. Nothing could explain it. Because there was no condition to be proven.
“Please…” I whispered shaking my hands in front of me. “I-I’ll get back to work… I’ll keep reading. Find something… I will..” I walked towards her, and kneeled over; lifting up the book she had carelessly stepped on before. I opened it, dust bursting out like bees swarming from a nest. Rozella was silent for a moment, attempting to process the shakiness of my voice. But she just shook her head, accepting my words.
“Fine. But I expect to see results. Results that aren’t ludicrous.” She snapped and turned, leaving the sunlight and proceeding back up the stairs. “And I’m not going to hold off my tests forever, Ingrid. It’s for your own good. For the good of everyone.” The door leading to the main section of the mansion slammed shut shortly after. I could feel my legs still shaking and I just allowed myself to sink to the floor, the book still in my arms. The tests. They’ve been something I’ve been put through ever since I was six years old. I remember it back then. I had my own little room upstairs… it was painted blue, my favorite color, and was filled with stuffed animals. There was always one bear that I would take with me whenever I had to test for the day. I named him Happy, and called him Hap for short. Happiness… was rare, throughout the time in my childhood, so I put the essence of it into a bear to make sense of my lack of it. I remember taking him out with me into the lab. I had squeezed him so closely to my body that the cotton inside him moved to his bottom and his head… his sandy fur was all matted… and his black little button eye was just a bit loose. Rozella would kneel down in front of me then, a smile plastered across her face. I remember though looking at her and saying, Rozy why are you sad? … Her smile would falter slightly then, and she would laugh and shake her head. Even then, I could see past the simplicity of the surface. I’m not sad, darling, but we have to do another test today, okay? Hap can’t be with you this time. I remember shaking my head “No”, tears streaming down my face as she threatened to take Happy away from me. I took him to almost all of my tests, and squeezed him so hard when they stuck me with needles and forced tubes down my throat. Her expression turned from what I saw as “sad” to angry then. She gripped Happy and ripped him away from me, causing his loose button eye to fly off. Happy! I screeched and ran at Rozella. She pulled him too high for me to reach and kneeled down, with her arm raised in the air. She was mere inches from me then, I still remember her cool breath smothering my face. Dear, I think you may too old for this now, huh? You’re a big girl now. And then she took him… and threw him away. At least I was able to scramble for his little button eye that had fallen off. I held it tightly in my sweaty little hands and shoved it deep into my dress pocket. And then I was taken away for testing. My one bit of happiness, gone.
I shook my head and blinked a few times as I pulled myself from my memory. I raised my hand slowly to my chest, my fingers finding Happy’s little black button eye, looped in a sterling silver necklace. I had kept it with me every day since then… whether it be in my pocket, my safekeeping chest, or around my neck, he was with me. I closed my eyes and allowed myself to smile. But now I’ve got to get back to work… I let my hand fall from my necklace and looked down at the front of the book that I had picked up earlier. I’ve never seen this book before… and I’ve picked through this whole library. The book in itself was relatively large, about the size of two hard covers put together. The binding was made out leather, and looked as if it had been sewn together. It seems as if it’s the only original copy of the book itself… as if it were never published at all. I placed my hand on its cover, feeling indentations in the leather. I could just barely make out the title of “Beyond the Surface.” It was worn, and faded, but it was there.
“Beyond the surface…” I whispered as I turned to the first page, and a note written in cursive was displayed over a hand-drawn image of a flower in field with a cloud high in the sky. The same image that Rozella and her scientists have asked me to interpret for years… The scene may seem irrelevant, but they wanted to start with something simple. It’d be too difficult for them to understand much more. But, how could this image of gotten in here? I bit my lip and looked at the top of the page. “Enlighten them” it stated. This is it. My freedom. I eagerly flipped to the next page and saw that the number one had filled the entirety of the section… all surrounded by smaller ones in various different directions and designs. No one of this day and age would ever think of writing something in such a way, it must have been written by someone like me… but, even though the book does look old, it appears much newer than the others I’ve examined. I moved on to the next page, which had a one at the top. This page was actually filled words. I began to read- To Whom It May Concern: If you can read this, and by read, I mean truly read, then there is something you must do. You must enlighten them, those who cannot feel, those who cannot see, those who cannot create, and those who cannot read. For this will be the first step, as you can see by the one at the top of this page. (I am only guiding you because I am unsure if you are her).
“Her…?” I whispered as I continued to read, furrowing my eyebrows. First, you must breakthrough to their emotions. You know they’re there. Past just one blank shade. They may see the color red, but you see crimson, scarlet, mahogany, burgundy, and fuchsia. There is a variation of every color, just as there is a variation of every emotion, and you must guide them, make them burst through their one, simple shade. Let it all pour out of them, in waves of color. Once they break, then they will be feel…you must decipher the rest. When I finished the sentence on the page, I flipped through the rest of the book, seeing that there were also in depth descriptions of how to make them see, create, and read. “Take one thing at a time Ingrid…” I murmured to myself, my eyes suddenly drooping. I lifted the book in my arms and stepped carefully over the novels behind me. The sunlight pouring in the library was weakening… it was dusk. I decided to put the book under my pillow, allowing myself to sleep on it, figuratively and literally of course.
“It’s been such a long day…” I trailed off and pulled the covers above my chest. “But why am I so tir-“ I began to speak but my eyes fluttered shut and I was sucked into a realm that I’ve never seen before.
I was in a city. Towering skyscrapers, murky grey skies, the squealing of tires turning corners just a bit too quickly, people trudging down cracked sidewalks, umbrellas over their heads and windbreakers pulled snuggly above their shoulders. It was just as I had imagined in my books… all of it. Expect the fact that each and every person had a neutral theatric mask plastered over their faces. They all just carried on past me, as if I wasn’t there, not a single word elapsing from their hidden lips. A woman with a scarlet trench coat walked by me, her auburn curls falling messily over her mask. I reached out to her, tapping her on the shoulder. She turned, and looked at me for a moment, the mouth on her mask curving eerily downwards. I took a step back, from her, and her mask changed back. She then turned and continued on her way as if I was never there.
“There’s got to be someone, something…” I murmured and continued down the sidewalk, frigid wind cutting into my face. I felt as if I were in the city of Chicago, even though I’ve never been there. It is the Windy city, after all, according to my books. Let’s try this again… I pushed past to a man who was standing in front of a flower shop, taking a drag off a cigarette… through his mask. He held a red rose in his other hand. It was drooping, and the thorns had cut through his skin, causing blood to drip steadily onto the sidewalk. “Sir? Are you okay?” I asked him, pulling my jacket over my trembling shoulders. Conveniently, I was dressed well for this place. The man looked up to me, the eyes of his mask turning into slits, the mouth thinning. It looked angry… as if the rose he held was for someone who had rejected him. I reached out to him, carefully taking the bloody flower from his hand. He didn’t even move as I uncurled each and every one of his torn up fingers. I laid the rose down, and picked a new one that was placed in a jar labeled “2.50 ea!” I held the lively flower up to his face, its brilliant color burning through the grey atmosphere. “She’ll love it. Just try again…” I whispered and the mask faded back to neutral. The man kneeled down robotically, picking up his bag and heading on his way. Again, as if I wasn’t even there. I shook my head and put the flower back in the jar, but gasped when I noticed all of them, besides the one I had taken, were now dead. Their petals crumbled to a deep grey, falling from their stems pitifully as another gust passed by. “There’s got to be someone…someone besides me.” I took a deep breath and continued down the sidewalk, past endless amounts of empty, masked faces. Until I saw him. There was a younger man, around my age, his head peeking out from above the crowd. Even when the rain started to pour, he just stood there. The overwhelming urge to run to him overtook me. I began pushing people roughly aside me, pulling away wet strands of hair from my face. As I came closer to him, I could see that he were different than the others. He was drenched entirely, as I was, and a large crack cut half way down the side of his mask, vibrating steadily. “You’re different!” I began to yell at the top of my lungs, my voice barely cutting through the rain. But somehow he heard me, his head turned slowly, stuttering slightly, as if it were on a rusty pivot. Keep talking to him Ingrid, keep talking. “Y-you’re more than just that mask!” I choked and fell forward, my knees landing and scrapping against mud and sharp rocks. I cried out, but people just walked around me, ignoring my existence. But in the blink of eye, he stood before me, his hand reached out. I took it and stumbled forward, landing in his arms. I looked up at him, my head sunk down deep between my shoulders. His masked face was just inches from mine. “Let it fall away…” I said and he wrapped his arms around my waist, pulling me closely to his soaked body. He dug his head into my shoulder and I let my hand rest on his back. C-crack. I heard it, right next to my ear, falling away in shards of grey glass.
“All of this…” he spoke, causing more pieces of his mask to crumble. He lifted his head up, staring at me with bright emerald eyes through the rain. “You… I can feel all of it now, because of…” he stopped, a smile all of a sudden turning up on his face. “You…” his voice rose slightly. “You are beauty. And… and, happiness, but also sadness, too, and anger, so angry. A-nd… I felt this, coming up within me because I knew it couldn’t just be one thing. One shade, you know? You… aren’t like them, you have no mask. You see it all, God I love you… but I love you because you’re more, but I’m not just loving you. It’s not just something you say without having so much more behind it. Behind all of it… shades… of a single thing I feel, I feel it all, I feel it and see others feel it because of you… you…YOU!” He laughed and leaned in, pressing his lips roughly against mine. Butterflies burst from my stomach at first, but for some reason, I felt comfortable with this complete stranger. “I’m sorry but, God, I just need to scream. You’re beautiful though, can I kiss you again later? By the look on your face, that’s a yes, I can feel it now, even though you didn’t say it. I can!” He stammered and jumped away from me, not giving me time to respond.
“I…” I began to speak but he just screamed, his voice zipping through the dark rain and entering the ears of each and every person below him. They all turned, their heads jerking up to meet the screaming figure. And then… I began to scream, allowing the sound to elapse somehow gracefully from my lungs. The masks of everyone began to vibrate, and crack, crumbling off of their faces. And one by one, they began to scream, and cry, and cheer, and hug, and kiss the ones around them. All their emotions… just bursting out like ribbons of color.
I sat up instantly in my bed when I awoke. Sweat dripped down my face and chills ran up my spine. I touched my throat. It was sore, as if I had been screaming in my sleep. Maybe I was…
“I-I have to find someone, with a crack in their mask… someone who is close to seeing more than the one-track feelings that are presented to them.” I stammered and retrieved Beyond the Surface from under my pillow. “I knew… I knew there was something about you…I-“ I tried to finish my sentence but was interrupted by the sound of heels clicking once again against the wooden stairs. Rozella hastily made her way down. She was dressed up in her testing attire: A white lab coat, slacks and a button up shirt. Her dark hair was thrown back into a messy bun, strands of hair poking out.
“Ingrid? You… were just screaming.” She asked, her voice shaking slightly. She appeared indifferent, but concern bubbled beneath her composure, I could tell from the careful tremble of her upper lip.
“Nightmares.” I responded quickly, shoving the book underneath my covers. Her eyes narrowed.
“You haven’t screamed like this before…” She said, half to herself, and half to me, her concern fading. “Regardless, just get yourself changed. I’m having a MRI done on you to survey your brain activity. And I suppose it’s the right time to do so, considering the sudden jump in severity of your… dreams.” She turned and headed back up the steps. “Be up in ten. Remember, no metal.” She called to me.
“Right… no metal…” I trailed off as I took off my necklace that held Happy’s button eye, placing it on my dresser. The last time I had gotten an MRI, I was only eight. That was another instant in which Happy was taken away from me, and now, ironically, he was being taken from me again. I shook my head and kneeled down, shuffling through the few clothes I had to change into. “No metal, no metal…” I mumbled, throwing a plain white cotton dress over my shoulders. Thankfully, it wasn’t dirty. I began wringing my hands together as I carefully stepped over my books and put one foot on the stairs. I turned, surveying my prison. It looked empty, without me in it… papers weren’t scattered everywhere, the dust in the air wasn’t disturbed, and the books weren’t pleased with my leaving. I saw it in them, they just wanted to be picked up, and read, analyzed… given the justice that they’ve always deserved, because only I am the one who is capable of reading them. But it won’t be like that for long. “Eyes other than mine will soon be able to enjoy your stories… your wisdom…” I called out to the books, letting their silent response push me farther up the stairs. The last time I had tests done was about a month ago, so heading up to the lab felt a bit foreign. This used to just be a library once, way back when people were like me. But a mansion and laboratory were built above to further study the literature below. Of course, they use the labs for other studies as well, like testing new, life-extension drugs on innocent animals, such as dogs and cats. They’ve already been able to extend the life-expectancy of our lab-owned German shepherd, Duke, from the usual 12 years to 35. Duke was already 24, and running strong. He was five years older than me and already genetically superior. It won’t be too long before they try it on people, extending our 82 year life expectancy to somewhere around 175. Why not live blind for another 93 years?
I made it up the stairs, and knocked on the locked door to the outside. It opened and an unfamiliar face was presented to me.
“Hello Miss Ingrid, I’ll be leading you to the chamber this morning.” He smiled at me, his teeth white, straight, emerald eyes swirling with bottled up excitement. Emerald eyes… He was a new scientist. I’ve never once seen him. But he seemed to only be a few years older than me, as if he had just finished college. I found myself staring at him, in admiration, maybe. I hadn’t met anyone remotely close to my age before. As a few more seconds of silence passed, the stranger scratched the back of his neck, and tilted his head, obvious discomfort seeping in. “Ah, I’m Dimitri, by the way, I’m new here.” He looked over his shoulder, and back to me, his dark hair falling messily over his thick, but well-kept eyebrows.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Dimitri.” I managed a smile. He smiled back and looked away, his hand on his neck again. I could sense his discomfort. He must know of my condition.
“Right this way…” he stuttered slightly and the two of us headed down along a white corridor. Being that it was a mansion; the walls were lined with beautiful paintings of mountains, trees and ocean views. The tile was pure marble, and glistened as the light reflected off of it. But we proceeded closer, I could feel acid gurgle in the back of my throat as the scent of the lab reached me. Keep calm… We made it into the lab. I could already feel my hands begin to shake. I felt like I was a mouse, trapped inside an illuminated, white box… all my senses twitching, jerking, claustrophobia sinking into my lungs.
“A-are you okay?” Dimitri asked and I turned to him. Emerald eyes. I know them. I remember vividly, that feeling of those same eyes, staring into mine. His rough lips, against mine. And then… it hit me. He was the man from my dream. The one with the crack in his mask.
“My hands are just shaking…” I said to him under my breath, looking away from those eyes.
“Yes… but I… you’re right.” he smiled, his hand to his neck again. We continued farther into the lab, making our way through various doors to the Magnetic Resonance Imaging room. I had to keep my eyes squinted. I was so used to the natural sunlight that poured into the library, that artificial light actually burned through my vision.
“Ah, Ingrid. You’re here,” Rozella emerged from the monitoring room and carried on towards us. Into the floorboards I go. “And I see you’ve met our new addition, Dimitri.” She smiled, faint wrinkles showing along her laugh lines. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her laugh.
“Yes…” I said, managing a smile, “He’s quite pleasant.”
“And he’ll be helping me survey your abnormal brain activity…” Rozella put a hand on Dimitri’s shoulder and he nodded with a fake sense of eagerness. There was something about him… like he knew he was different. I could tell from the second he asked if I were okay. He could feel my anxiousness, my energy. He tried to hold it back, but I could feel it pouring off of him. Even now, as his eyes bore into the side of my cheek. “Dimitri, how about you help me get the sedative ready?” Rozella asked and Dimitri nodded, following her to the monitoring room. “Ingrid, dear, go ahead and sit down, we’ll be back shortly.”
“Yes ma’am.” I responded, taking a seat next to the machine. Confusion swirled within me as I thought of the sedative I was being required to take. In the medical books I have read, on MRI’s specifically, sedation is usually for patients who exhibit extensive amounts of fear and anxiety when being but through the machine. Which, I suppose the last time I had an MRI when I was eight… I had panicked. I remember scraping my little hands on the inside of the machine, yelling to be let out. But today, I felt like I had shown calm demeanor…rather, by pushing away my true feelings of extreme discomfort. But I know that they can’t see that…maybe Dimitri can, but Rozella can’t. So why must I be sedated…? Why must I fall asleep? “To dream… to see the activity…” I spoke to myself. It all made sense now.
“And here we are…” The two scientists emerged from the monitoring room, a syringe in each of their hands.
“Why do you have two syringes?” I asked, standing from my seat, my discomfort elevating. Push it away…
“I want to make sure you stay completely asleep. And by that, I mean even if you scream in your dream… I don’t want you screaming in reality. If you move, it will taint my results.” Rozella said, reaching her hand out. I hesitated for a moment, but reluctantly gave in, giving her my arm. “I remember when you were a little girl…how afraid you were of needles back then…” Rozella let out a sigh, the needle coming closer to my skin. No.. no no no. “But seeing you now, not a single tear streaming down your face. You’ve grown up. It’s almost sad, really…” I could feel it, touching my skin now, cold. Very cold. A sharp breath entered my lips and I could feel Dimitri put his hand on my shoulder, trying to comfort me. He could sense my fear. He could. And with that, the needle entered my skin, and I could feel the cool serum run up my arm through my veins. I didn’t even flinch. Within seconds I could feel myself start to fade, my vision fogging.
“Now, let’s get you on the bed before we give you your second dosage.” Rozella’s voice curled around me in a blur of sound, and both her and Dimitri gripped my arms, leading me to the bed. I laid down, my head nodding back and forth. The second needle was in my skin within moments after and I could barely feel it. The only thing I felt was the coldness of the fluid running up my arms… down my legs, swirling around me. Swirling… like ribbons of color… and the hum, of the machine, but no, not a machine the, hum… buzz of bees, zipping past my face and resting on dainty sunflowers.
“Come on Ingrid, this way!” the voice of Dimitri reached me. I looked down at my feet, I was barefoot… in a field. I could feel the grass sticking in between my toes. I… I couldn’t remember the last time that I had felt the earth underneath my feet. “Ingrid? What are you waiting for?” He called to me again. He was standing in the distance, dressed in summer jeans and a brown leather jacket.
“I’m waiting for the clouds to open up… for all of us to see the light!” I yelled as I ran to him, the grass crunching underneath my feet. Even though I spoke of the clouds, in this world, there wasn’t a single one in the sky. It was all, a beautiful, bright blue…aqua…cyan. All of it.
“You look beautiful…” Dimitri smiled as I approached him, my breathing heavy.
“Thank you.” I responded, butterflies circling inside me. So many of them. And then they appeared. I could feel their paper-like wings, fluttering against my cheeks, dozens, hundreds, circling the two of us. “What’s happening…” I trailed off, allowing the creatures to rest on my fingers.
“You’re creating…dreaming,” Dimitri looked at me, his emerald eyes glowing bright.
“Two… two more things I need to do. I must do… Can you create?” I asked him, a warm breeze causing the mass of monarchs to make their way down the field. Dimitri looked at me for a moment, his expression dulling…within moments, his complexion turned from bright, and healthy to grey…ill. And then the temperature dropped. I wrapped my hands around my arms, chill bumps rising. And then the darkness came, just over the hill behind the sunflowers…that were now dying, one by one. It was like their stalks had been bent, their bright petals now crumbled, and brown.
“Dimitri?” I looked at him, disbelief overwhelming me.
“She blocks this. Ingrid, she blocks you. She’s taken more from you than you know…” he spoke, his voice distorted. I shook my head and placed my hands on his shoulders.
“Y-you mean Rozella? Wha…what has she taken from me? Tell me, please…” I said, biting my lip. The darkness was approaching us fast. It blackened the wind, the sky, everything in its path.
“Your blood… your blood was placed below the surface, because of her.” He spoke.
“My blood?” I sputtered. The temperature continued to drop. It was coming. Closer. “Ah…” I winced suddenly. As I looked at Dimitri, I saw deep red dripping from his shoulders. “Wha..?!” I released him, my hands trembling. Thick tension ran up my neck as I watched my last name being carved into both of my hands before my eyes. Blanchard…Ingrid…Blanchard… Rozella Harrington…My name, my name is Ingrid Blanchard. Not Ingrid Harrington. It never will be Ingrid Harrington. I brought my hands to my face, letting the blood run down my cheeks. It was hot. It burned as it trailed down my skin, but I let it, because I knew, it was Blanchard blood. My blood.
“Yes. You see that dark cloud?” Dimitri pointed.
“Y-yes.” I responded.
“That, that is what took your blood. She made that cloud, right there, you see? She wants to kill all the butterflies, and all the sunflowers, and anyone, who creates it.” He looked at me intently this time, his hands now on my shoulders. “There was once two of you. Two parts. Of you, your blood. But see, that cloud there, the one she created, sucked them in. And those parts of you… died. But not entirely. Because Ingrid, you still have their soul, their mind, their blood, runs in you. And you know, that only you can create, but…” he took my hands now, regardless of the blood dripping steadily down. “I know that we can create together. I’m already almost there Ingrid. That’s why I came here. I’ve known of you for the longest time, and have always dreamed of finally meeting you. Well…tried to dream. But I feel what you feel, deep inside of myself. All you need to do is show me. Show me all of it. All you need to do is speak.”
“Speak.” I muttered that one word and a burst of summer wind curled around the both of us, lifting us off the ground. I didn’t scream. Nor did he. The wind was taking us home, dissipating the dark cloud that was previously surrounding us.
“Ingrid… speak to me, you there?” Dimitri’s voice faded in and out as I could feel myself slowly begin to come back to consciousness.
“Di-Dimitri?” I sat up, rubbing my eyes.
“Your results… they were incredible.” He whispered and I couldn’t help but smile. I’m sure yours would look similar
“Incredible indeed…your brain activity is just over 50 percent higher than the average. Even higher than what your mo…” Rozella cut herself off and I could feel the wounds on my hands the instant she did so. I looked down at them, seeing that I was completely unharmed. But the pain was still there.
“Even higher than my what?” I asked forcing myself to stand on my feet. I wobbled a bit and Dimitri caught my arm.
“Than…hm, nothing. Why don’t you take her back to the library, Mr. Ripley, I have to do some further analysis on these results,” Rozella shooed us both off with her hand. Dimitri nodded to her and took his arm and wrapped it around me, leading me down the hall and back to my cell. I knew she was lying. I could feel her apprehensiveness, her hesitation. She was about to speak something that she would never, ever wish to tell me. And I needed to find it out.
Within ten minutes or so, Dimitri and I had made it back to the door leading into the library. The effect of the drugs had faded almost completely.
“I..” He began, but I cut him off.
“Come with me. I must speak with you.” I said, gripping his arms and pulling him down the stairs with me. He resisted for only a moment before closing the door behind us.
“Don’t call me that. Please….”
“Oh, I’m sorry- Ingrid. But, I will be honest with you. Rozella is hiding things. Big things. And… After finally being to meet you after six months of being here and gaining her tru-“ I stopped in my tracks and turned to him, tilting my head up to meet his eyes.
“I- I thought you were new? You’ve been here for six months already?” Six months have past? I…I don’t even know what month it is. Time is elusive when confined for so long…
“Yes. I have. I tried asking Rozella if I could run some of my own “tests” on you, just to see you, but she refused left and right…” He said, and continued down the steps. He has been here all this time? Just to see me? …No one ever comes to see me. When we both made it down the stairs, Dimitri’s eyes glazed over, his stance relaxed, and his mouth parted just ever so slightly in awe. He lit up, as he observed the library and the piles and piles of books stacked just about everywhere. “T-this is magnificent. I’ve never seen something look so ancient, yet so beautiful at the same time…” he whispered, picking up a book and opening it. It was one filled with poetry. “And from the winds, whispered an ounce of hope, to be formed, and produced for the good of the people. They’ll find hope said they, said she, the one who is their savior, the one who brings back creation…” he trailed off as he read the poem, “It reminds me of you, for some reason.” He…he understands it? He’s making connections, thoughts. Just speak to him, Ingrid, teach him.
“Here, come.” I said and Dimitri nodded, following me to a spot with two ratted and dusty red love seats, the place in which I would often analyze my books. We sat down together.
“Ingrid, though, as I was say bef-“
“No. Right now, this is more important.” I said, my voice strong, yet somehow gentle, like a gust of summer air.
“Poetry is?” He asked me, looking down at the book in his hands.
“The fact that you can even read that poem and make some viable connection to anything means that we are another step closer to discovery. To bringing back the light in people’s eyes,” I said and Dimitri put his hand over his mouth, covering an extensive smile. He let out a choked up laugh moments later, shaking his head.
“And, by light, you mean… what you, can do right?” He said, his grin causing little wrinkles to form around his eyes.
“That’s exactly what I mean. Dimitri, we can change things, we were meant to do this.” I laughed and he looked away shyly, a smile still on his face. I even noticed a little red on his cheeks. He was embarrassed. Or… something else. The only reddened cheeks that I could recall ever having myself was when I had been struck. But no, his was different. It…was produced from a strong emotion, a positive one. It…was one of affection. And then I felt it. A sudden heat rising from my cheeks, promising me that they were as red as ever. I looked away now too, and laughed under my breath. The first boy I ever meet at my age, and I’m already having a bodily reaction towards him! Ingrid, you silly silly girl. Look how easily he’s pulling your strings! Yes yes, I know, moving on, moving on. “There’s something I want to show you, give me a moment.” I said, standing from my seat and heading to my bed. I lifted my pillow and released a sigh, seeing that the book was still there. I don’t know what I would have ever done if it were gone… or if I had never come across it in the first place.
“This…” I came back to him, pushing my chair closer to his so he could see more clearly. I sat down, and the instant he saw Beyond the Surface, his expression dropped from smitten to serious, his eyebrows furrowing.
“So you did get it.” He said to me, looking up into my eyes.
“What do you mean?” I asked, tilting my head to the side.
“You got your parents book. It was specially made for you, that’s why Rozella has kept it hidden away for so long. Until I brought it back to its rightful owner.”
“W-What do you mean my parents, and Rozella, she hid it from me? My, my parents… my real parents, wrote this for me?” I stuttered, my throat closing. Dimitri stood and kneeled down before me, his hands resting on the arms of the chair I was seated in.
“Ingrid. Are you sure you want me to tell you this…” Dimitri said, secrets fluttering behind his eyes. I could feel them. I needed to know.
“Yes, yes, yes…” I choked. Dimitri nodded and sighed before beginning.
“Before you were born, Rozella worked with your parents. They too, were like you. Able to read, dream, create, all of it. Now, after countless amounts of tests, your mother and father realized that Rozella’s intentions weren’t for the good as she told them they were. Your parents, they wanted to enlighten people, but Rozella just wanted to gain their ability in order to deceive others. So, when they tried to leave, she wouldn’t let them. Until she found out that your mother was pregnant. With you. So then, Rozella let them go, but not without tracking them throughout the years. Four years after your mother had given birth to you, Rozella came in contact with your parents for one last time. They agreed to come in, whilst you were a home with a sitter, hoping that Dr. Harrington has changed her ways. But… once they had been brought into the lab, they…”
“They what… Dimitri.” I said the instant he had paused. My hands were clasped so tightly together that my knuckles had turned white.
“…They were given a lethal dosage of adenosine, causing their hearts to stop. After they had passed, Rozella had claimed that other drugs had been in their system at the time, as if they were taking something to cover up their condition, their supposed insanity. She said that they had a deadly reaction to the drugs they had been taking, and that she tried to save them after their attacks, but was unsuccessful. Being as unperceptive as people are these days, they believed her. Ingrid, she did this…to get to you. After you were put into the orphanage, she had visited you many times to observe you…to see if you had the same ability that your parents did. After she confirmed this, she adopted you, and has been using you ever since. She knew that if she could raise you, she could control you. So that’s exactly what she did.” Dimitri stopped and looked up at me. Steady, silent tears had been streaming down my face, my lip trembling, hands still clamped together, shaking. A sick, visceral feeling had filled my body. I felt entirely numb.
“S-She… murdered my parents? After all this time has passed and I thought they had died in a car crash. I wasn’t even good enough to hear her lie. That… her…I-I hate her. I can’t live here anymore, I can’t, Dimitri, please…” I gasped, my breathing laced with mucus and tears.
“Ingrid, I don’t plan on leaving you here. And neither does many of the other scientists. Dr. Belle was the one who left your parents book down here for you.”
“How… did you know all of this? How did you even find this out?” I asked.
“Dr. Harrington likes to keep her thoughts down in journals to reiterate herself, and her scientific findings. The instant I came to work here for her, I had heard rumors of a special girl who was imprisoned in a library. And it was true.”
“I… I had always dreamed of the day that someone would find me, and that I would be saved…that I would be freed.”
“And you will be. Rozella is going to be out on a call tonight, so that’s when we’re going to make our move.” Dimitri smiled, putting his hands on mine. “I have been planning this for a very long time.”
“But… why? You barely know me.” I frowned.
“Because I believe in you. I believe in your ability, and I believe that our elusive God has sent you here to enlighten us, to bring us back to what we once were.”
“G-God… you believe?” I laughed, more tears falling.
“I do. Because of you.” He said and stood, my hands in his. I stood with him and we looked at each other for a moment.
“I’ve read about true love.” I blurted out, and looked away from him, my cheeks burning red again.
“I’ve seen true love.” Dimitri responded, moving his head to meet my eyes again. I took a step closer to him. He smiled and leaned in slowly. “May I?” He whispered, his lips a mere inch away from mine.
“You may.” I giggled and our lips met seconds after. I had never kissed anyone, till this very day. I could feel his arms wrap around me as our hearts intertwined. Anger, sadness, regret, love, passion, drive…all of it was rushing hot through my veins. I knew there was nothing I could do about my parents… but I was a Blanchard. Not a Harrington. And as long as Blanchard blood ran through my veins, I was going to follow in my parents footsteps. I was going to enlighten them. Every one of them. No matter what. I was going to start with Dimitri. And end with the world. I know I said that I hated Rozella. But I didn’t. Regardless of the time she ripped Happy away. Regardless of all the pain she’s put me through. Regardless of her murdering my parents. I couldn’t hate her. Even after all she’s done, she was my “mother” for all these years. And I knew, even though she adopted me for her own selfish needs, that she had love for me. I saw it when she used to bring me new blouses, the one’s she knew I loved, I saw it in her eyes when she ran downstairs to check on me when I was screaming. I am not capable of hate. But, that does not mean I will allow her deed to go unnoticed.
Our lips lingered for a moment when our kiss slowed to a stop. I pulled back a bit and smiled at him, tears of joy, and sadness falling down my face in thick streams.
“Tonight. Gather anything you want to take with you. Dr. Belle and the others will be waiting to escort us out the back. Then, we run. Ingrid, you need to bring any evidence with you, to prove where you’ve been all this time, and the conditions you’ve been living in. Then, Rozella will never be able to touch you again.” He said, moving strands of hair gently away from my face. I nodded eagerly and I reluctantly allowed him to release me. With one last peck on the cheek, he headed back upstairs, and promised to be back once the sun had disappeared.
As the day went on, I gathered up my belongings. My favorite blouse, Happy’s button eye necklace, and the countless amounts of journals I had written pertaining to the books I’ve analyzed, as well the ones that contained my experiences throughout my years of being in this prison. It spoke of the tests I had been forced to do, the times that I was struck when answering a question incorrectly, my feelings of utter loneliness… all of it. And, of course, Beyond the Surface came with me as well.
Night fell quickly and Dimitri came to fetch me the instant the last drop of sunlight left the library. He brought an empty bag with him, allowing me to pack my things. As we headed up the stairs then… I remember looking back to the books. I had taken a few of my favorites with me, but I wish I could of taken all of them. It was their prison too, for all these years.
“Dr, Belle, we’re here…” Dimitri knocked on the door of locked section of the mansion. The woman opened it graciously and nodded to us.
“I wish you well, dear. You’re going to do great things…” She said, patting me on the back as we shuffled through the doorway.
“Thank you. Thank you, so very very much.” I said to her and Dimitri and I headed off, making our way out into the night with 20 minutes of him retrieving me. It was like I was in a dream, the chilling evening air cleansing my lungs as we snuck around the building, and into the parking lot. We entered his car then, and drove off, making our way to his family’s lake house around two hours away from the facility. On our ride, we talked more about ourselves. I spoke of the books I had read, and read him some poetry I had written. He interpreted each and every word I spoke, asking me if he were correct. There is no right, or wrong. It’s all about what you think, what you feel. I remember telling him. And then he would tell me of his childhood. How he used to have bits and pieces of dreams, and write down those little sections the second he would wake up. He told me how hard he tried, and how he was never able to get past the blackness when he closed his eyes every night. He spoke of how he tried praying, and I asked him how well that worked for him. Good. Regardless of me not understanding it, I felt less alone in my own head when I prayed, he said then. Those two hours together passed in near moments. The second his family had opened the door, they embraced me, tears in their eyes. Dimitri’s mother was actually close to my biological mother before she passed and knew more about her and my father than I could of ever known. I spent the whole night talking to her about them, and I felt as if I was sitting and talking to my mother herself. It was incredible.
The next day, Dimitri took my journals, and came back home, letting me know that the situation had been handled. Rozella was now removed from my life forever. But I couldn’t not forgive her. She’d never know that I forgave her, I kept that to myself. But, I didn’t believe she deserved to know of my forgiveness. Only I needed to know. And after that day, my life began. Dimitri and I had been together ever since we ran. After three years, we were living in our own place, a small cottage on the lake side. With my freedom, I ran a community library that was only fifteen minutes away from home. There, I taught classes on how to reach the most important parts of yourself. The parts that allowed freedom of expression, and perspective, the parts that taught you how to read, and how to explore your own creativity… the parts beyond just science. With every class I taught, people became closer, and closer to what they once were, long ago. They began to dream again, they began to read, they began to pray, all of it. After two more years of my teachings, people from all around the world came to see me, to learn from me. I felt as if I were leading the human race into a new, brighter future. Oh, and within those two years as well, Dimitri asked me to marry him. I said yes, of course, and a just a year later, November was born. Our sweet little November… When Dimitri and I were thinking of a name, he mentioned the time in which I had asked him what month it was, because when I was imprisoned, the concept of time was far beyond me. I remember him, stating it was the month of November, the month in which I had gained my freedom. And so that’s what we decided. Our dearest November Ripley. She even had her father’s beautiful emerald eyes. And as she grew, we gave her the childhood I never was given. One filled with flowers, camping trips, and family. Family. Something I never had. Till now. And as I sit with her, she begins to teach me how to create, dream, pray, and feel. Because at birth, she already knew these things. Even more than I did. And to this day, she continues to teach me, as I teach the world. As we enlighten them all.