Atlas

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Chapter 1

I blinked wearily, aware of a bright source of light above me, and three similar expressions on familiar faces crowded in chairs around me. I twitched my finger and relaxed my hand.

“Maryse, Arella is awake! For the love of Christ, hurry, go get the doctor!”

Maryse rushed out of the room as her father rushed to the bedside. My bedside. A completely helpless feeling swarmed me as I watched him fuss about the pillows, the food, and just about everything else in the room.

Maryse’s family was almost like my own. She and I met when I first came to Toronto and she tucked me under her wing. She was naturally an extrovert and took an immediate liking to me. So did her family. They acted as if I was their second daughter, as my family was still back home, in Trinidad.

“What happened réalta?”

My lips curved up at this Irish nickname. Maryse’s dad called me ‘star’ because he and the family had caught me belting out the lyrics to a soca song while I thought I was home alone.

“I don’t know...” I held back on the truth for a reason. I couldn’t explain to him how I had managed to still be at school past 5:30 when Maryse had been long gone, or why I had agreed to help a stranger, or how I managed to throw said stranger back about 10 feet.

“The doctors said you were in the car with a man, Arella. Who is he?” He rarely used my name, except when he was dead serious. I sighed and attempted to sit up. I failed miserably and sank back down.

“It was not serious. He is one of my teachers and was giving me a ride home.” Her father’s eyes narrowed as he scrutinized me carefully.

“Okay. Well... I have to head back to work now. Maryse is going to stay at the hospital with you until you are discharged to be sent home,” he declared and I nodded. He patted my hand as he got up and left the room at the same time that Maryse came back with the doctor.

The doctor’s lips quirked up slightly as he came around to check my vitals. Even though I was still groggy, I noted that the man was very cautious around me, as if I was a rabid beast.

After he spent a few moments swiveling his head from between the machine that recorded my heart rate and his clipboard, he turned to Maryse and whispered a few words to her. With a wary glance at me, she left the room, the door clicking softly shut behind her.

The doctor cleared his voice and set down the clipboard on the nightstand, removing his wire-framed glasses from his face and tucking them into the pocket of his white jacket.

“How are you feeling, Arella?” he asked, his face grim. Worried, I blinked a few times, causing him to shake his head and pinch the bridge of his nose.

“Listen... I’ve worked as a histotechnologist in this hospital for twenty-two years, and I’ve never seen anyone quite like you,” he remarked and glanced up at me. His eyes were a gentle gray and his brown hair was peppered with white streaks.

“Your skin, I mean. We tested it four, nay, five times and the results were still the same,” he stuttered, his fingers fidgeting with his badge. I shifted to face him better and cleared my throat.

“What is it?” I whispered and my throat constricted as I awaited the inevitable, the horrible news that would tear my life apart.

“Despite facing multiple trauma points, your skin has somehow managed to remain unbruised... the blood on your body tested as your own, but you have no visible wounds. None, of any kind,” he reiterated, enunciating all of his words clearly.

I sucked in another shaky breath. “But that should be a good thing, right?” I pressed. He said nothing and just stood in silence, staring intently at me.

“Yeah. Just sign this discharge form and you’re free to go,” he uttered and with a swoop of his white lab coat, he was out of the room. Maryse padded back in and cocked her head to the side, but I just shrugged as I signed the form and got up perfectly fine from the bed.

“Are you sure you should be standing?” she questioned and I waved her away as she touched my arm.

“I’m alright,” I told her, still processing the doctor’s words. No wounds? That was impossible. I was dejected through a car window. My leg was definitely broken. Maybe I was just too high on adrenaline and I didn’t fly out the window? Maybe the pain felt worse than it was?

Nevertheless, I shook my head and followed Maryse to her car.

***

As I eyed a yellow canary flittering up a tree, its wings beating rapidly, I pulled my shades up and stood from my seat on the stone bench, the babbling water of the fountain bubbling beside me. I rolled my head on my shoulders and loosened my shoulders.

The sun shined brightly on the marble slabs that made up the center of the park, right beside the fountain and I eyed them out of the corner of my eyes.

These past few days, since the accident, have been weird. Well, more weird than my life usually is. Maryse and her family insisted that I stay with them for a while instead of at my door, and I conceded, although I had no injuries.

On the second morning at their house sleeping on their couch, I awoke to an empty house, so I decided to head out for a stroll. That morning, I miraculously found myself on the same park bench that I had been coming to since that day.

I sighed as I glanced at the watch on my wrist, getting up from the bench and beginning to make my way home. As I walked down the streets, which were beginning to fill with people cavorting around stalls of sellers, I whistled a tune from back home, something that had stuck with me for a long time.

I enjoyed the soft breeze fluttering fliers stapled to wooden posts and the smell of freshly cooked funnel cake. However, out of nowhere, a hand seized my arm and I stopped, mid-whistle.

“You! Come with me,” I heard a voice hiss and I was pulled into a dark alley. I resisted against the strong grip of whoever was trying to kidnap me, but they kept themselves latched onto my arm and spun me around to face them.

The woman that was staring intently at my face had gray, thinning hair and wrinkles that went on for days. Her dark skin was made darker with small freckles and her mouth was painted in a candy apple red.

“Who are you and what do you want from me?” I questioned, finally managing to jerk my hand away. Creepily, she shared a smirk with me and patted my arm.

“You are the one they have chosen. The one to defeat the darkness rising in the land of the Trinity!” she exclaimed and I stumbled back at her close proximity, shaking my head in disbelief at all the crazy events to take place over the past few days.

“Am I dead?” I asked myself, pinching my own arm and flinching from the pain. Her fierce and intense gaze remained as she continued to stare at me.

“You are Arella. The messenger of God,” she whispered and took a step forward, reaching her hand out to caress my hair. I swatted it away.

“What the hell is with everyone calling me ‘messenger of God?!’ I’m just a regular-”

“Someone else has called you that?” the woman interrogated, snatching my wrist up once more. I blinked a few times as I noticed her brown eyes had a ring of gray around them. “You need to accept the calling now, or more of them will come after you and try to corrupt you.”

“More of who? What the hell is going on?” I demanded, my heart beginning to pick up pace with erratic beats.

“The demons,” she groveled out. “The demons are coming for you, Arella. And when they come for anyone, even the warrior of the trinity, they get what they want,” she finished, studying my face carefully.

My breath hitched in my throat as her eyes mesmerized me in a hypnotic trance. She pulled at my arm and I stumbled, but followed her down the alley, into a building.

The interior was dark and I should have been running for the hills, but something about her reminded me of my own grandmother. Although, that wasn’t necessarily a good thing. My grandmother practiced obeah, dark magic that corrupted the purest of souls.

We emerged from the dark hall and she unlocked the door of a room, ushering me inside with her. Reluctantly, I took a deep breath and followed her in.

“Come with me, child, and you’ll see,” she ordered and sat me down at a table, which was coated with a thick layer of dust. She bustled through the kitchen like a car racing through the highway, and she returned to the table with two mugs of tea, promptly seating herself with a cup.

She handed the other cup to me and began to speak. “Our home, Trinidad, is not safe anymore,” she warned and sipped from the mug. I eyed her suspiciously but did not touch the cup. For all I knew, she could practice obeah too and could’ve poisoned my tea.

As if she sensed my unease, she pushed the cup toward me. “It’s alright, darling. I am not the one you should fear,” she said. I still didn’t drink from the mug.

“The obeah men of the villages, one by one, have started disappearing. Of course, no one else but a practicer of obeah would be able to tell. Everyone else thinks they’re just money-based murders, but we all know better,” she paused, taking a long drink from the mug. I was still in disbelief of how I got here.

This all sounded like a cautionary tale my parents would’ve told me when I was young. I remembered my parents talking about taking my cousin to an obeah man; they were the only ones who could undo the black magic that witch doctors cast upon a soul.

“The last obeah man alive is in Couva. Once he dies... the whole country will be shadowed in the darkness of the witch doctors and their jumbies.” Jumbies? Jumbies weren’t real. They were just as real as Dracula or werewolves.

“Listen, woman. As much as I love the sentiment, I’m not interested in buying whatever you’re selling,” I asserted and picked myself off of the cracked yellow seat. She also stood, presumably to stop me, but I held up a hand.

“Jumbies aren’t real and you’re just someone that’s been stalking me or something. If you don’t stop, I’ll go to the police,” I warned and she sighed, flopping back on the chair. Satisfied that she was no longer a threat, I moved to the door, but she had some parting advice for me.

“The house at the busiest intersection of Couva,” she called out, but I did not listen. I opened the door and slammed it shut, taking a few moments to gather my nerves as I headed down the hall, back to Maryse’s home.

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