The Secret Carriers

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Chapter 16

Abigail waited for a suitable lull in her aunt’s story and spoke. “So you’re wanting me to take over from you? You want me to bring people back from the dead?”

Her aunt turned to her and her eyes finally cleared, returning to the present and the room around her. “You’re such a good girl, Abigail,” her aunt said. “I think you’re just the right person for it. And besides, you’re here now.” She gestured to the room, and the garden, and the sky outside that was starting to lighten to a soft dove grey.

Abigail tried not to let her jaw fall at that statement. Her aunt didn’t know her, not really.

Her aunt looked at her watch. “We could go now.”

“Go where?”

“To see the Consortium. I need to tell them that I want you to be next in line. And then…” her aunt’s eyes drifted away from her face. “And then I’ll ask you my favour.”

“We have never allowed a child to be a Secret Carrier before.” The unnerving voice of the Consortium said through the darkness, floating towards the island of light where Tamara and Abigail stood. Abigail stood as tall as she could, her chin raised. She wanted to look as adult as she could. “I’m not a child!” she said defiantly.

Beside her, she saw Tamara stiffen. “But I was about her age when I became one!”

“No, you were not. You do not remember events correctly. You were twenty, you were an adult, not a few years above childhood.”

I have to do this! Abigail dug her nails into her hands and planted her feet on the floor. If I do this, people will take me seriously! No one will think me a scared young child any more! If I can interfere with the dead…if I can have them under my control…

“Please,” she pleaded. “I can do this! Please give me a chance.”

Silence stretched out long, and seemed to never end.

“You vouch for her?”

Tamara jumped. “Yes. I do. She’s my niece. She’s always been a good girl for as long as I’ve known her.”

Which has only been a day here or there for my entire life, Abigail thought. How can you know someone in only a handful of days? Someone that is on their best behaviour? It worked out in the end, my pretending.

“Very well. You may be tested.”

Excitement and fear swirled up inside her, fighting for dominance. She looked to Tamara.

Her aunt smiled at her and patted her hand. “It’s okay, the test is nothing to worry about.”

For you, maybe, Abigail thought bitterly. I have to pretend I’m someone I’m not. I have to be sad when I want to not be, and upset at the right places.

She headed for the door to the testing room, her chin still raised.

A full forty five minutes later she returned, drenched in sweat, her dark hair plastered to her forehead. She realized she was shaking. She willed her feet to move, one in front of the other, to make it to the island of light where her aunt stood anxiously, arms out ready to embrace her. Abigail stopped short of her aunt, leaving a gap. Tamara’s arms dropped limply to her sides, her face falling.

Abigail was too nervous for any sort of congratulations. The verdict had not yet been given. She tried to quell the quaking inside. She felt like her nerves were going to tear her apart, bit by bit from the inside. She bit her lip, not wanting to offend the judging panel, whoever they were in the darkness that surrounded them.

A moment later, the answer came. It was halting, grudging, as if they were confused by the result. “You have passed.”

Tamara jumped up and down, clapping her hands. It was like she was the girl, not Abigail. A buzz of electricity shot through her, but she felt rooted to the spot. “I passed?” she muttered, surprised. “I passed!”

Her excitement was cut short by the voice of the Consortium. “Once she gets the Secret, you know what must happen next?”

Tamara nodded, suddenly serious. “Yes, I know the rules. I am going to ask Abigail to carry it out, to do me that favour.”

“Favour?” It was the Consortium.

Tamara nodded. “I am sick. There is nothing more that can be done for me.”

It felt as if the darkness itself was giving its approval. “We understand.”

Tamara held out her hand. “Come,” she said. “We need to go get the Secret given to you first, and then you will do me my favour.”

It was the strange way that her aunt said it that sent shivers up Abigail’s spine.

Chimes jangled above the door, and the small Asian man moved from behind the counter. It seemed as if he was expecting them. When his eyes rested on Abigail his thin eyebrows rose briefly, but he motioned her over to the worn leather chair that tilted back into a table. He didn’t speak a word, but it was Tamara that explained what was going to happen.

Her aunt removed her top and turned her back to the tattoo artist, exposing her back that was filled with dark ink, like a living page from a book. The man got to work in silence. There were no other visitors to the shop.

Abigail walked stiffly, tenderly out of the shop, holding on to Tamara’s arm for support.

“The pain will go away quickly,” Tamara was saying as she led Abigail down streets and through squares back to her master’s house. “Let’s have some tea, shall we?”

Abigail heard a slight quaver to her aunt’s voice.

They sat on the couch, at either end, angled toward each other, and holding teacups and saucers daintily in their hands.

Tamara placed her cup down on the coffee table. It rattled loudly in her shaking hand. “You’re a grown girl, almost an adult. And you’ve passed the test anyway. The youngest person yet, it seems. They seemed quite shocked at that, didn’t they?”
Abigail nodded and sipped her tea. She didn’t want to say why she thought the Consortium had seemed shocked.

“Well, I want to, need to, be blunt. Like I said, I’m dying.” She fumbled with her tea cup again. “There’s no way around that. But as you learned in your visit to the Consortium, one of the rules of being a Secret Carrier is that only one person can carry the secret at any one time. Right now, there are two – you and I. But I want you to…” The teacup in her aunt’s hand was shaking so much Abigail was afraid she’d spill it all over herself, or drop it on the floor. She put her own down hastily and took the cup from her aunt.

“Thank you,” her aunt said with a small smile. “I want you to put me out of my misery.”

Abigail’s hands froze, gripping the delicate cup and saucer so tightly her knuckles turned white and she was afraid they would shatter and explode in a million pieces.

“You want me to…kill you?” She spoke the last two words in barely a whisper.

Tamara raised her eyes to Abigail’s own and nodded. “Yes, exactly. And then…and then you could bring me back again. I would like that, I think.”

Abigail simply stared at her aunt. She didn’t know what to say. Eventually she allowed herself to nod.

“I will do it. I will do as you request.”

“But then you must leave here. The only way to do it, to stay safe would be to join a gypsy band. They are allowed to be free here. They are allowed to live and travel safely through all boundaries. Because they bring entertainment and things to trade. They don’t stay in any one place too long. They don’t interfere with the local society.”

Abigail nodded. She liked that idea. A fresh start with people who didn’t know her. “Where…do you want to do it?”

“The garden.” Her aunt was firm. “I always loved the garden.”

Abigail nodded and her face barely changed when her aunt pressed an energy gun she removed from the folds of her dress into her hand. “It’s a new type of gun. Almost painless, I’ve heard.” Abigail nodded numbly, her fingers folding themselves stiffly around the handle, her finger resting naturally next to the trigger.

She rose, feeling like a ghost of herself, and almost floating out the double glass doors, behind her aunt.

Tamara positioned herself in front of a Japanese maple tree, its leaves a fiery red, so bright against the dull grey of the surrounding sky. Her aunt threw a vibrant smile at her, and closed her eyes. “Thank you,” she whispered.

Surprised, Abigail felt a single tear trace its way down her cheek. She squeezed the trigger.

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