Light flooded the room. I had to squint my eyes to adjust to the brightness. I almost dropped my gun in surprise at what I saw. About ten feet away, was a familiar young woman. Her mousy hair was swept up into a bun. For the first time, I was able to see her face clearly. Her sky-blue eyes were saucers that brimmed with surprise, fear and recognition. In her arms was a bundle of blankets that she clutched to her chest.
“You. You’re alive” I muttered. I didn’t understand how the Tainted woman I watched get shot, was sitting right here in front of me. She tried to melt in a curtain behind her to get away from me. I didn’t understand at first but then I realized I was still training my gun on her. Hastily, I tucked my gun into my pants. “Sorry.” Slowly she stood up from her hiding spot, still gripping the bundle tightly.
“You must be Myra.” Her voice was soft like velvet. She stopped a few feet away from me. Her bare feet were caked in dirt and grim. Her lovely jewel eyes popped against her blond-brown hair. Her under eyes were dark with exhaustion.
“You two know each other?” Mark’s eyes zeroed in the bundle on blankets that had started to move around. A tiny hand, the size of a jellybean reached out from the mess of cloth.
My eyes moistened without my permission. My words caught in my throat. “You had your baby.” She gazed affectionately at her child. Then she lifted her bright eyes to me.
“When no one was in my corner, Myra silently supported me.” I felt uncomfortable at her words of admiration. “Even if you did spit in my brother’s face.” My mouth hung open in shock.
“Wait, James is your brother?” She nodded.
“You spit in James’s face?” Mark asked me with a look of unbelief.
I lifted my arms in exasperation. “I thought he killed her.” I pointed at the woman in front of me. “How are you alive? I saw James shoot you.”
“James shot you?” Mark’s navy eyes were wide with shock. The woman’s dry cracked lips stretched into a gorgeous smile. I could see the resemblance between the siblings. She shook her head.
“He shot me with a tranquilizer, so that I could pass for a dead woman. Then he hid me here and helped me give birth to my little boy.” She unwrapped the top of the blanket to reveal a wrinkled little face the size of my palm. His little green eyes blinked open. His chubby little cheeks swelled into a gurgling smile. I felt his soft, smooth skin with my index finger. His grabbed onto my finger with his peanut hands. I felt a real smile pull on my face so hard that my cheeks started to hurt.
“What’s his name?” I asked
“What’s your name?” Mark added.
She chuckled and unlatched her baby’s iron grip around my finger. “My name is Elizabeth and this is baby Charles or Charlie, as I like to call him.” She bounced her baby until he gurgled happily. “I never got to thank you for helping me that day.” I couldn’t answer her, all I could do was stare at her dumbfounded. “Remember, you warned me to run. Of course, I thought it was a different Enforcer than my brother, that’s why I ran. Then you were the only one who tried to interfere with Enforcer Jones. I was sure my brother was going to shoot him that day.”
I thought about how she had snapped Enforcer Jones’s knee, I immediately liked her. Mark was trying to make Charlie laugh when he asked Myra, “Elizabeth, how are you impure if your brother is a Pure?” The jarring question brought everything back into reality. I was like her; impure, adulterated and corrupted. But Elizabeth wasn’t fazed.
“James was born first. He had such strength as a young boy that the Magistrate began to train him as an Enforcer when he was only ten.” Where James’s eyes reflected the sky, Elizabeth’s were like looking into a kaleidoscope. Blues swirled with grey and green creating an enchanting gaze that I had to pull myself out of. A melancholy cloud hung around her as she spoke about her brother. “Then I was born. He always looked after me and loved me. When my first menstrual cycle started, I was taken in for some tests, just as they do for every young fertile girl. They said, they found a hole in my heart; an atrial septal defect they called it. I would live, but over the years it would cause more and more problems. The Magistrate did not want to waste their time, money or expertise on some girl who they couldn’t prove would be of use to society when she grew up.” She covered her baby in the blankets once again as a cool wind blew through the basement. I puzzled over how wind could be in a cellar. I hadn’t seen any windows. “In the Magistrates eyes, I lost my value as a person because I was physically defective.” I shook my head in disbelief. “The Magistrate men held me in isolation. They told my brother that if he eliminated the source of my impurity, that they would let me live.”
“They ordered him to execute your parents?” My voice went up an octave. Elizabeth pressed her lips together, as if trapping a scream inside of herself.
“What better way to erase all sense of self from your pet?” Her kaleidoscope eyes flashed with pain. “So, he did murder them, to protect me. Can you imagine a fourteen-year-old boy pressing the barrel of a gun into his parent’s temples? All for my safety.” Elizabeth wiped away her tears. “What we didn’t know, was that there was nothing wrong with me. The Magistrate falsified my medical results. They wanted to manipulate James and turn him into a weapon to spread fear. When he found out about this he found a way to break me out of holding.” She paused and stared up at the ceiling. “Well, he and a friend we had at the time.” Mark’s eyes slid to Elizabeth’s face, drinking in her anguished expression. “I was only thirteen years old. I begged James to run away with me, but he told me the only way to keep me safe, was to separate himself from me. So, I ran. He thought he was giving me my best chance for survival. I would visit James from time to time, but nothing regularly. At least until I got pregnant.” Elizabeth wouldn’t meet my eyes. I knew she wasn’t telling us something, but I didn’t want to push her right now. “I imagine your story is just as tangled up as mine.”
Mark chuckled dryly. “You could say that. I wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for Myra and your brother.” He patted Elizabeth’s hand. “James is smart, I know he will survive.” I heard Dr. Darling’s voice in my head, do you really only want to survive? I craved life for James, a free life for my friend, without his secrets and burdens.
“James has been my invisible guardian angel for years. It wasn’t until yesterday, that I found out your brother’s true heart. After everything that has happened, I believe your brother is a good man and I will do everything in my power to help him.” I took her cold hand in mine. “I promise you Elizabeth.” She looked at me with sympathetic round eyes, like she would rather let me live in my delusion than pull me into cold reality.
The hail storm of footsteps were back. It was like a stampede of buffalo were in the room above us. The hair on the back of my neck stood straight up. Elizabeth pulled her child close to her chest. She guided us towards her hiding place. Without saying a word, she pointed at the thick black curtain that she had been hiding under. Elizabeth lifted the velvety corner and frigid air blasted me in my face. There was a window about five feet tall and three feet wide. Outside swirls of leaves and rain battered against the window. She let go of the curtain and it swung back in place.
“Imagine my surprise James when I found a lamp shattered on the floor.” The Chancellor’s symphonic voice was back. At the sound of his voice, Elizabeth’s face went sickly white. She clutched Charlie close to her heart. I didn’t understand how someone so sadistic could have such a captivating voice. I heard a strangled grunt from who I assumed was James. It sounded like he was gargling blood. Elizabeth clutched my hand until I couldn’t feel it anymore. “What’s the matter James? Nothing to say for yourself? Do things just magically topple over in your home. Like this?” A booming sound reverberated through the floor boards. It sounded like the humongous book shelf had been thrown to the ground and now lay splintered across the floor. Charlie started wailing. His high-pitched screams made my blood run cold. Elizabeth tried to hush the distressed baby, but he could not be consoled.
“What was that?” The Chancellor snarled. “Find them! Find them now!” He screamed. My nerves were completely shot. I thought I would melt into a puddle on the floor, but one look at Elizabeth and Charlie, I knew I had to be strong.
“Run.” I pushed the curtain open. I grabbed Mark’s hands. “Take Elizabeth and Charlie. Keep them safe.” Mark’s hypnotizing eyes fixed on me. I wanted to drown in those eyes. “Please Mark, they have no chance without you.”
“Myra, they will kill you. I won’t leave you.” He pleaded with me, but my mind was made up. I turned to Elizabeth. The thudding grew louder and with each of their footsteps, my heart beat became more frantic.
“There is a farm at the south end of sector one. Tell the farmer, Cephas, that Myra sent you. He will protect you. Don’t stop until you get there. Protect your child.” Her eyes glistened, but she nodded. She unwrapped the scarf from around her neck and handed it to me.
“Hide your face. Don’t let them know who you are.” Elizabeth gripped my hand in gratitude one last time before she wiggled through the window. The rain splattered in my face, but I couldn’t think about myself. I need to know that Charlie would make it safely to the farm.
I pushed Mark towards the window. He tried to protest but I shoved him through the escape hatch. His large frame was immediately soaked. Mark turned back and gazed at me with such intensity that the onslaught of water evaporated under his heated eye contact. “Promise me you will fight for me, Myra. That you will come find me.”
I had to tamp down the desire to run away with him, but I knew I had to give them a head start. “I promise Mark, I will fight for you.” With one last longing look, he disappeared into the sheet of white rain.
I let the curtain swing back in place. I wrapped the silky scarf around my head, so that only my chestnut eyes were exposed. I bolted over to the light switch and quickly plunged myself back into darkness. My hand wrapped around the cold gun. My ears started to ring. I sunk back into the darkness by the window.
“Come out, come out where ever you are.” The Chancellor sang as the rug was pulled away from the floor. Strands of light spilled in from the cracks between the floor boards. I heard the rattling of the metal ring being pulled open. I closed my eyes and focused on slowing my breathing. I pictured my family. My father’s goofy grin whenever we would decide to have ice cream for dessert. My mother’s warm embrace she would give me as a child before bedtime. The smell of coriander that infused in my grandmother’s skin. Jaya sneaking me extra dessert from the kitchen. Mark’s sparkling sapphire eyes. I had a lot to fight for. I focused my eyes on the trap door that was now shuttering from the footsteps. My steady hands trained the gun on the door.
“Fight like hell Myra.” I whispered into the darkness.