Once or twice he thought he caught a glimpse of Lyric’s intentionally messy bright blue hair in the streams of people crowding the busy streets, despite the bone chilling cold of autumn on the cusp of winter.
Gabriel squeezed past people, and began jogging through the human congestion, dodging umbrellas, elbows and murderous glares from other pedestrians. After two blocks he gives up on his quest. Turning the collar of his jacket up against the wind, he huddled down and made his way to the tall, glass-fronted home of his grandfather’s investment empire.
Putting on his best ‘don’t talk to me’ face, he managed to get to his office, on the 26th floor, without too much hassle. He sat down heavily, grudgingly thankful for the soft thickness of the leather chair.
He realized he was shaking as he drew the envelope from his pocket. He took a deep breath. “Get a hold of yourself, Gabriel!” he chided himself.
The envelope was brown. His name was written on the front in a handwriting he didn’t recognize, simply as G. Ash. He turned it over and was about to open it when he noticed something on the flap. A dot sat in the middle of a larger circle. He shrugged and tore the paper. He drew out a single piece of paper, folded over double, and lifted the flap.
Four words stared back at him in neat typed letters. You have been chosen. At the bottom of the page was the same dot and circle.
What? He stared at the paper dumbly, and turned it over, expecting something else. It was blank.
He was about to throw the paper and envelope in the trash and put it down to some weird Monday morning prank, when something fell from the envelope – a business card. He picked it up gingerly, as if it would hurt him. On the front was the now familiar circle and dot design. He flipped it over. The Consortium. It was typed in the same neat font as the letter. In a strange cursive, that he recognized as being the same as his name on the envelope, was written, your presence has been requested. This was followed by an address.
Gabriel knew it instantly. It was as far away from this part of the city as you could get. The not so nice part, down by the docks. He had always tried to avoid that part of the city, if he could help it. The part that you didn’t want to get caught walking down a dark alley at night, or any other time of day, in. “Well it looks like my life isn’t so boring after all,” he said with a glance at his boring, yet expensive, desk and computer and phone. He looked at the card again. It didn’t mention a time, or date. He risked a glace out the window. It was still cold and grey and miserable. He hadn’t even taken off his scarf or coat yet. “Better now than never,” he said as he levered himself out of his chair. His leaving the office moments after arriving raised a few eyebrows as he pushed through the revolving door and back out onto the street.
Gabriel felt like he had been walking through a maze of run-down and abandoned warehouses for an eternity. He was just about to give up ever locating the address that was neatly typed up on the card he held him his hand with a death grip, the sharp edges of the paper cutting into the baby soft skin of his palm. He felt like the only person alive right now. He didn’t think another living soul was around for miles. Gusts of wind caused old, rusted metal walls and roof to creak and groan like trapped monsters.
At last he had arrived. He looked at the faded number above the door, barely lit by the dim lamp above, and down at the card. Yes, this was the place. It was a small, narrow box squeezed in between two large warehouses. It seemed like it was being held together just by the other buildings on either side.
He hesitated. The envelope offered nothing as to what was behind the rusted door in front of him, that was barely hanging on its hinges. Maybe Lyric would be there… The thought of the girl with the riot of colour, and the aura…the something about her that made him tingle gave him a jolt of courage.
He took a deep breath and pushed open the door. He stepped forward slowly, in the darkness, his patent leather shoes ringing hollowly on the concrete floor. It was almost pitch black. Gabriel realized he was holding his breath.
He almost screamed when a brilliant white light flared to life all around him. Instinctively, he squeezed his eyes shut. He could see his eyelids, glowing red, with the brightness of the light. He slowly opened his eyes, wincing.
He realized he was standing in the middle of a circle. A circle of people. And he was the centre. I’m the dot, he thought numbly. Spotlights shone down on him from all around. He couldn’t make out the figures standing around him. They were cloaked in shadow, standing just outside the pool of light.
A voice spoke. It sounded like many voices, melded as one. “Welcome to the Consortium.”
Gabriel didn’t know what to say. “Thank you?” It was more question than answer. Why was he invited? What did they want him for? Who were these people? These questions and many more swirled inside him. He wanted to ask them all, but he couldn’t find his voice. His throat was dry with fear.
“We have invited you here today to ask you only one question. You can accept, or you can decline. The choice is yours, and yours alone. If you decline, you can go back to your life, just as it was, and you will never hear from us again. If you accept, we can guarantee your life will change forever. Drastically.”
Gabriel found his voice. “For good? Or bad?”
“That is not for us to decide.” There was a long pause. “You only have five minutes.” Another stretch of silence. “The clock is ticking.”