Chapter 1: A Life of Luxury
The door of the shuttle slides open and a strong wind swirls around inside the shuttle. Patrick steps forward on the platform for his family’s apartment high above the city. He holds out his hand toward me, offering to lead me into his world.
I should just stay on the shuttle. I should ride away from him and forget this whole world. I could go back to Nathan and forget everything else. I can’t.
I reach out and take the offered hand as I step forward and off the shuttle. I can’t back down now. Two guards stand at the door, and far below us I can see people walking along like ants on the street. Is this how the rich see the rest of the world, as ants walking under their feet?
“Why do the wealthy live so high up?” I ask as we walk toward his door hand in hand, him leading me forward.
“The most expensive apartments have always been at the top of sky scrapers, that’s what these tall buildings are called. Some of the richest people actually live out in the country. There is an especially high amount in the East end of Goochland County. But, it takes longer to get into work from there, so a lot of families just live in the more expensive apartments near or at the top of the sky scrapers.”
He pauses, and he looks as if he just ate something bitter. “Wealthy people have to show off how much money they have, you know.”
The guards open the doors, and we walk into a gilded entry room. The walls are rose red trimmed by gold curling around the edges and snaking up and over the entry door and the three other doors. There is a door for each side wall. Next to the entry door there is a small golden bench with shoes lined up under it. The floor is a single white marble slab.
Patrick lets go of my hand and goes reaches for his shoes. “If you could take off your shoes please, it will make our house keepers work load less.”
I pull off my own ratty shoes, things I am almost certain were pulled from a dumpster, and watch as Patrick carefully unties shiny leather shoes. He places his shoes under the golden bench next to the door.
I feel ashamed to put my own ratty shoes next to his. What am I thinking? What do I have to be ashamed about? I am this way because the rich don’t care. I stick my own ratty shoes under the bench.
He looks at my shoes, and then at me, as if suddenly realizing just how poor and ratty I really am. “We’ll put you up in the guest room. It has a bathroom you can use to clean up in. I’ll have Melanie, our housekeeper, bring you one of...” He pauses, and his face becomes a closed gate as if clamping down on every emotion. “She’ll bring you a dress.”
“Come, this way.” He walks forward and I follow like a puppy following its master. He doesn’t seem like the hopeful young man I was speaking to just a moment ago. He’s become stiff and formal for some reason.
We walk through the door to the right and we are in a beautiful light blue painted room with white trim and book cases lining the walls. I step forward, and notice dark wooden boards under. To my right three blue couches with curling edges that looked like they were from another age around a fancy looking blue rug facing a fire place with a fake fire glowing on a screen. There are no windows in this room, and two doors, one to my left, and one straight ahead.
Patrick walks toward the door straight ahead. He opens the door into a sage green room with white trim and light golden colored wood floor boards. This room has large windows lining the right wall, and a clear glass door leading out onto a balcony. Above the windows I can see what looks like a heavy green cloth a little darker than the walls bunched up – drapes my stolen memories told me. On the left side of the room is a (what is it?) a bed with four wooden spokes – four poster bed is what this called.
It’s an old style bed according to the man’s memories I am using. He was a high class thief who stole from rich homes like this one.
A green cloth – bed spread – covers the bed and I can see at least four pillows propped up against the bed.
There is a small mossy colored rug next to the bed, and a night stand on either side of the bed. There is a dark wooden dresser on the wall next to the door we walked in through. There are two small white doors. One door is straight across from the entry door and one is to the right of the big bed.
Patrick is standing next to the windows. I didn’t even notice him move while staring at this immaculate and beautiful room.
“Come over here Hope. I want to show you how to operate and control the features of this room.”
I walk over toward where he is. I don’t know what he means by “the features of this room”, but it sounds interesting.
He touches the wall, and a part of it turns into a panel with button and words.
“This tab,” he touches a button near the top, “is the drapes panel. These 6 lines are the 6 drapes in your room.”
Each line has a couple words that describe it. The first line says “left left” and has two buttons next to it. The first one says up, and is grayed out. The second button says down.
“The drapes are fairly simple. Press the up button and they go up, press the down and they go down. If they are all the way up, the up button becomes grayed out. If they are all the way down, the down button is grayed out.”
I nod to show my understanding, but I kind of just want to press these buttons and watch them go up and down. To think that you could control thing by simply touching a wall! What is this strange world he lives in?
He touches the second tab, and I can see a bunch of boxes with pictures. “This is the mood tab. Currently the room does not have a mood and is on default.” He points at a box on the screen with a red circle with a line through it that says Default below it. “Here, I’ll let you try it out.” He steps back to make room for me to touch the panel.
I step forward and touch a panel that shows a land covered in grass with a single tree that says Savannah below it. The window becomes opaque black glass, and then, it becomes grassland with a couple trees, and strange rises coming out of the land in the distance. Above the land is a blue sky that stretches onto the ceiling, and the land wraps around the walls encasing the doors. The floor changes and It looks like grass is growing out of the floor. The grass is as high as my waist and waving in the wind. The bed sits in the middle of this strange grass place, and not a single blade touches it.
I look at the grass close to me. Strands look as if they are cutting through my body as the wave in the wind.
“Unfortunately, it’s just an illusion and is intangible, but it’s pretty and lets you travel to other places.”
A couple massive gray things walk toward us on one wall. One lifts a strange snaky thing that protrudes from it head up toward the sky.
“What is that?” I point toward the creature.
“It’s an elephant. Unfortunately they are almost all but extinct now.”
A spotted cat creature dashes through the wall, crosses the floor, and pounces on a skinny legged creature with great horns coming out of its head on the wall near the bed. The animal goes down and the huge amount of animals near it start to run.
He hits the default picture, and it all vanishes. The windows become transparent again and I can see the skyscraper on the other side of the air way.
I want to just sit there and ask him questions about this strange world on that appeared in the room, but he is moving on.
“I’ve never seen a mood panel repeat a scene. The creatures seem to have some sort of AI, and they live in that valley in the screen. Whenever you turn it on they come to life exactly where you turned it off. I once had a lion kill a gazelle right next to my bed. It’s fascinatingly realistic.”
What is a lion and what is a gazelle? An image from the page of a book comes to mind. There is a man reading the book, and he sees this cat with a large fluff of fur and it’s head. Underneath the picture it says “lion”. He flips the page and there is a picture of the creatures I saw on the screen, and underneath it is the word “gazelle”.
“…controls the lights.” Patrick is talking to me again. The third tab is lit up. This screen has an image with a round circle with a bunch of lines coming out of it on top of a long black line. Below this there are a bunch of blocks of color.
“You can use this to control the brightness of the light.” He presses the round circle and moves it up on the line.
The light coming from the ceiling becomes brighter. He then moves it down and it dims.
“You can also change the color of the light.” He touches a color, and the room is swathed in purple light. He touches it again, and it goes back to the original color.
“The last tab is for temperature, but I wouldn’t suggest messing around with that one too much. It allows you to set the room for different temperatures at different times of day. Currently your room is set to a constant 21 degrees. If you want the temperature changed just ask Melanie.”
Who is Melanie? Oh, right, the housekeeper. He said her name earlier.
“You can also use voice commands.” He claps his hands together.
“Drapes command on.” A pleasant female voice says from nowhere and yet everywhere.
I look around but I do not see anyone else. Is this Melanie speaking? “Where is she, the woman who is speaking?”
“Unrecognized command.” The voice says.
“That is the system’s voice, you can do all the commands I showed you with your voice.”
“The number of times you clap will get you to the number tab you want.” He continues.
“Left left,” He says.
“Left left drape.” The voice says.
“Down.” He smiles at me, and the furthest left drape starts to slowly lower. “Stop.”
The drape stops lowering.
“Voice commands off.”
“What do you think?” He is smiling like he thinks that this is the greatest thing in the world.
All I can think is that all this strange stuff in his house would probably pay to house tons of people that are living on the street, but I smile back at him. “It’s amazing. It will probably take me forever for me to figure out all of it. I never imagined stuff like this exists.”
My praise of the technology in the room seems to make him happy. “The bathroom is through the door straight across from us and the other door is a closet, though it has nothing in it right now. I’ll have Melanie go out shopping with you to get clothing later. Oh, and I’ll have Melanie leave a dress for you on the door of the bathroom.”
He goes out through the door we entered through, and closes it behind him. I guess this is where I am supposed to go into the “bathroom” and clean up.
I open the door he’d pointed to, and find myself in a room white walls and gold trim. The floor is covered with large marble slabs.
A large tub with golden feet is in front of me – a claw foot tub. There is a rod above it; a shower curtain hangs down inside the tub. A white marble sink with golden handles is across from the tub, and at the end of the tub is toilet with the tank for the toilet way above the bowl part and a golden pipe linking the two. A chain hangs down from the tank, and a word comes to mind – pull-chain toilet.
I remove my contacts and clothing before looking through the memories for how to use the shower. I can see the high class thief using a bathroom similar to this at one point. His memories tell me how to operate the shower that is connected to the claw foot bathtub.
It’s strange, to feel the warm water pouring over me, to use the fancy soap that has a mild sweet smell with a sharp touch to it that makes me feel more alert. I can’t put a name to the smell, but it says “Roses and Lemon” on the bottle.
A knock sounds.
“Yes?” I call out, not sure what else to say.
I can hear the door open a crack. “I’m leaving the dress on the door, if that’s ok with you Miss.” A high pitched but soft-toned voice calls out.
“Umm, ok.” I don’t know what else to say. Is she asking for my permission? And why is she calling me Miss? I’m just a miscreant orphan girl in an opulent house.
She’s left underthings and a bright red dress hanging on the door.
I don’t belong in this world. I don’t belong here. I have to use my stolen memories to even semi-understand this high-class apartment. But, if I want to change the world, if I can change things from the top, I can change everything.
The dress is made from a soft flowy fabric, and I easily pull it on. There is one strap across my right shoulders, and a strange shimmery fabric falling down over my left arm.
I step forward and the red fabrics that falls to the floor swirls around my legs. It’s so different from my discarded drab wool dress.
It’s so soft I could just run my fingers over it again and again. This life. This luxury. I could see how one could become complacent with this. If I simply accept this life I never have to wear a thick wool dress again. I could a life of comfort with illusionary images and drapes controlled by the voice, and I could pretend like everyone else below me is just a person less lucky that I. But what did I do to deserve this? I gained a power where I can kill people with a thought. I can steal memories and make myself invisible.
I don’t know what to do now. I guess I should explore? Maybe I can go to the room with the book shelves and find something to read until Patrick comes to get me. It seems like the genteel thing to do.
Genteel. The rich like to pretend they are genteel. The word floats around in my mind, a place where it belongs, but true meaning behind it. My memories provide nothing except that the rich call the way they act genteel.
The library is lit by a soft glow and there is Patrick curled up in a couch chair with a book on his lap. He has time to sit around reading? He doesn’t seem to notice me standing in the door. His brown hair is combed back now, a politician’s greasy style, and his face is clean shaven now. Something else is also different. I can’t quite put my finger on it.
He raises his hand, the cuffs on his shirt undone, just like the top bottoms of his shirt, and he pushes glasses back up on his face. That’s it! He’s wearing glasses. He wasn’t wearing those before. Don’t the rich have surgery to correct for bad vision or something though?
He still doesn’t notice me, and I have a strange urge to be unobserved, to sneak up, and… look over his shoulder at his book? Scare him? I don’t really know. I notice you, as if you are an apparition that just appeared when I questioned my own motives.
Are you actually disappearing on me, or I am just forgetting your existence and you dim away to the back of my mind? Why are you here? Why do you follow me? Who are you? Why can I only make you out as a dim and distant human like figure, like a ghost, but sometimes I can see a clear expression on your face or a movement? What are you, and why can I see you? Are you truly a figment of my imagination, or something else?
“H-Hope?” Patrick is staring at me, his mouth slightly agape, his book sitting in his lap.
I feel… strange… uncomfortable. I’m not sure I like the way he is staring at me so intently, and I look down at the dark wooden floorboards beneath me.
“You look amazing, like an Angel.”
An angel? I’ve never been called that one before. I look up at him, and find myself staring at his plain simple glasses. They are glasses like a poor person’s in the expanse of luxury.
He set his book down on the chair, and walks toward me. Should I go toward him? What does he want me to do? Why hasn’t he said anything else.
“Come, Melanie will have prepared dinner for us.” He holds out hi hand toward me-
-and gasps stopping straight in his tracks. “You’re – You’re eyes.” He whispers.
I forgot to put the lenses back in! I cover my eyes with my hands and turn back toward my room. He must have seen my scary white eyes, soulless eyes is what I heard Jack calling them to some of the other children.
A hand grasps my arm as I try to run for the room. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you. I was just surprised. I’ve never seen anyone with eyes like that before. On the official record your eye color is listed as brown.”
“I’ll go put back in the contacts. It scares people to see my demon eyes. I try not to ever go without them where people can see me.” I pull against his hand trying to run toward the bathroom where I left the lenses on the edge of the sink.
“It’s ok. You can go without them here. I just wasn’t expecting to how – how pale they are.”
I slowly turn to face him, and he releases my arm. He looks so sincere. Does her really not care about my demon eyes?
His brown eyes lock with mine, and he doesn’t flinch or look away. “Come, we will be late for dinner.” He grabs my hand and pulls me toward the door to the right.
“Dinner is promptly at 6 every evening, and we are expected to eat at this time.”
He leads me through the door into a dark blue room with a large chandelier in the middle hanging down over a dark colored large wooden table set with glistening white dishes and shining silver utensils. It’s like a dream from the past.
A woman in a floor length shimmering blue gown walks in through an archway entrance to the left.
“Patrick dearest, are you really going to have that jail bait living in our house and eating with us? Why can’t it just live in a maid’s closet or something?” She twirls her finger through the single strand of black hair hanging down from her immaculate hairdo.
Patrick sighs. “Hope, this is my wife, Azalea. Azalea, the young woman with me has the ability to stop a person’s heart with just a thought from her mind, so please, don’t antagonize her. It really would be sad if something happened to you, dearest.”
If she’s his wife, shouldn’t he be near her, smiling and happy instead of looking like he’s dealing with an annoyance?”
“Uck. All the more reason you shouldn’t have brought that thing into our house.” She shudders and prances toward one of the seats. “Melanie! Where is dinner! It should be out at 6pm sharp!”
Patrick leads me forward and pulls out a chair for me. “Here, this is your seat, Hope.” He walks around the table, and sits next to this dolled up woman.
A door on the other wall of the room near the right corner swings open and a woman with short black hair wearing a simple black dress comes out with a tray in her hands. “Sorry Ma’am. This here took just a touch longer to cook then I planned.”
She sets the tray down in the middle of the table, and then looks over at me, her almond shaped eyes meeting mine. She screeches, and flees for the safety of the door she entered through. I should have worn my contacts after all.
Azalea looks furious. “What was that about? Melanie! Get back here now and serve this meal!”
The woman creeps back in, keeping her eyes downcast. She is doing everything in her power not to look at me.
This looks like it will be a long night.
I look over at Patrick, and notice him staring at his plate not saying a word. What type of place is this? I wish I was back among the orphans, crowded around a thick pot of stew with all of them cluttered together and laughing and giggling. Even though they ignored me there, I felt less alone than in this giant monstrosity fill with hate and loneliness. How could these rich people live like this?g here…