『F』 【I】 『V』 【E】
Was it a word? She’d never heard of it, and it sounded unusual and somewhat foreign. She thought of the girl, unlike anything she’d seen before. Could that be her name? Cressela?
Amber’s gaze flicked over to the next page, and she squinted and frowned at the scribbled, unfamiliar writing: “Meam commemorationem.” And as she looked through the other pages, they were written in the same way, scribbled in a red-black ink in an unknown tongue. Some were even written in a type of code, and eventually Amber stopped trying to understand it. However, at the very last page of the book, there was one faint, indistinct sketch of a woman similar to what Cressela looked like, with shaded dark hair and pale skin. Amber gazed at it in interest as she realised that the eyes were filled in with dark graphite, and she bore a look of contentment in her expression - unlike Cressela, whose eyes were a dull, hypnotic white, her countenance enraged and quite insane.
Amber pushed the books into her bag with a heavy sigh, and leant her head back on the grey fabric of the couch, closing her eyes.
What had her life come to? What kind of adventure would this turn out to be? She couldn’t just rid herself of the book and carry on living everyday life - she was part of this mysterious case now, and she knew it, willing or unwilling. And she wanted to uncover the full story.
Amber got up and picked up her bag, calling Marcel over, and locking the front doors she ran off with him to the only person that might understand what she was feeling. Amber stopped when she arrived outside the small bungalow, picking up the key from underneath the doormat and letting herself in. Her grandfather was at his desk, scribbling down notes and carefully emptying pastel coloured liquids from test tubes and beakers into a glass. He looked up, smiling as he noticed her and Marcel enter the main room, Marcel watching Celeste as she looked down at him judgementally from the windowsill, then purring as Amber stroked her soft fluffy fur.
“Amber, dear, what a pleasant surprise. Sit down, please - would you like a drink?”
Amber nodded, forcing a smile as Celeste rubbed herself against her legs and jumped up on the couch next to her, licking her paws delicately. Ruey noticed her unease, and lowered himself into his armchair, studying her expression through his spectacles.
“What is bothering you, child? Do you feel like you can confide in your old grandfather, hmm?”
She sighed, shifting in her cushioned seat.
“Why do adults always tell minors what to do, Ruey? I don’t understand, why aren’t children and teenagers treated like people?!"
“You wait until you get to my age, dear - old men aren’t treated like people either. But we do tend,” he said, stroking Marcel’s fur, “to get the comfy chair.”
“Something completely out of this world and extraordinary happened to me last night. I can’t even find the words...”
Amber bit her lip, thinking. “It was pretty much all a blur, but I can still remember... ugh, no one will believe me.”
Ruey frowned, confused. “Well, I’m listening and I believe.” He sat back, listening. “Try telling me.”
Amber took a deep breath and started: “I ran off to the woods in the evening, just to get some air and escape for a few moments. You know, Melbroke Forest?”
Ruey nodded patiently, watching her expression.
“And the deeper in I went, I saw this bridge, an old and unsteady bridge, with moss and ivy round it. And I’ve never seen it before,” she said, recalling the specific events of the other night.
“I took a different route, though, because there was a fallen tree trunk in the way. But when I came nearer to it, I think I fell unconscious. And I remember I fas a headache at the back of my head-”
“Did you take a hit?” Ruey asked in concern, but Amber shook her head, shrugging.
“I’m not sure. Maybe.”
He nodded slowly. “Carry on.”
“I awoke in this small darkened room, and there were stains or marks on the bed, and a sign on the floorboards that must have been a hint to keep quiet, so I hid underneath the bed and sketched the room.” Amber got out her book, passing it over to him as he observed it in consideration, then gave it back.
“There wasn’t anyone around that I could hear, and I knew that I needed to get out, so I went to try and escape by the front door - but it was all boarded up, locked and bolted. And there was another room near it,” she said in a rush, “And there was a gap, maybe where a window used to be. But...” Amber took a breath, fingering the book she bought with her.
“There was this book on the ground.”
She carefully took it out of her bag, showing her grandfather. He froze for a moment, studying it, before taking it out of her hands and flipping through the pages. His lips were parted slightly, his face baring confusion and a trace of recognition.
“This is Latin,” he murmured, tracing the words on the second page. “Remembrance. Meam commemorationem.” He flipped through the pages of the yellowed book. “I can’t understand the coding written here, though.” He closed it, placing it on the table.
“Carry on, child.”
“So I took it, but this crowbar I picked up dropped on the floor,” she said, shivering at the vivid memory, “and I heard this kind of high pitched roaring noise - so loud - so I got out and started running to the bridge-”
“Did you see where it was you were in?”
“Umm, yeah, a kind of large, dark house? - it was night, so it wasn’t very clear. But I went to the bridge,” she said, her breathing uneven, “And I saw this... creature.”
“Creature? What kind of creature?”
“It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It was horrifying - I don’t know how to explain it, Ruey. It looked like a girl, and it had black shoulder-length hair, and bright white eyes, and I think there was blood coming out of them, and at her mouth. I just ran as fast as I could to the other side, but it didn’t follow after I had left that part. It just made that ear-piercing noise again and I felt something electric and hot graze my face. Then I must’ve passed out when I made it out of the forest, because I woke up in the hospital.”
Ruey’s gaze was serious and appaled. It took him a few moments for him to respond, and he took off his glasses as he glanced to the side in thought.
“That description,” he muttered to himself, frowning, and looked back to Amber. “Do you have an image, a drawing?”
“There was some sort of sketch at the back of this book,” she started, opening it and turning it to the back, showing him the life-like image of the creature. Ruey’s eyes widened in disbelief as he stared at it, unblinking, and then he got up, sorting through his bundles of dated newspapers on his desk, determinedly searching for something. After a minute or two, he picked one sheet up, eying it closely and nodding, beckoning Amber.
“It might be the very last of its coetus,” he told her, and then added “Group, in Latin,” when she gave him a puzzled look.
“Why is everything in Latin?”
Ruey tucked the paper and the book under his arm, patting her back and sitting her down at the coffee table in the back corner of the room.
“This creature’s creator was Latin. He came from Vatican City, in Rome. It’s one of the only places that still speaks Latin or Latium. This one particular creature must have copied and learnt how to write it.”
Amber frowned, confusion overwhelming her as she tried to think of the right question to ask out of the millions buzzing in her mind.
“I don’t understand - who is the creator? And how do you know who this creature is that I saw? What is the creature I saw?! It was terrifying, you know,” she said in a rush.
“This creature is made up of DNA from humans, animals and practically any other living thing. It has extracts from everywhere, and also possess mystical, unexplained powers based on natural planets and elements,” he explained slowly.
“How is that even possible?” Amber asked, astounded.
“He was a very clever man. A Doctor Sanistri, who was renamed Dr Insanis. Everyone thought he was insane, a mad scientist. He tried to prove he could help humans against the world’s natural disasters and other unsolvable problems, but the higher powers wouldn’t hear of it. And, well, when he went ahead by himself and made these creations, he hid them away on a very remote and abandoned island. No one saw or heard of him again.”
Amber took all this new information in, wonder and shock evident in her eyes.
“Is he still alive? Are there more of these... species?”
“Well, he disappeared shortly after his rejection, with his belongings and other projects and creations. I do believe that there may be more of them with him - and the one you stumbled across must have escaped somehow with its group, or coetus.”
“Why did it need a group?”
“I don’t know, dear - the public only heard minor details when he confronted the governments about it. I expect they must be somewhat sensitive, and stay with each other. I suppose its coetus must have died somehow, or killed by humans that might’ve discovered them.”
“Do they have a name?” Amber asked, fascinated.
“Well, he nicknamed them Immortalems, but perhaps they are mortal after all. But never mind that, never mind that now - I worry that you have its belonging, and if there are more of these creatures, this rest of the world is oblivious to what the apparently living inventor may do! After all, he created and controls some of the most dangerous beings ever known!”
Amber sighed, closing her eyes and leaning back in her chair. Then she opened them again, a thought coming into her mind.
“What if...” she started, becoming eager as she thought aloud, “What if this could be the adventure I always longed for? What if I could return to Cressela, set things right - and with her skills and power, we could stop this mad scientist?”
She squealed in excitement, only to be met with her grandfather’s horrified look.
“Now, look here, child. You are but sixteen years old, and-”
“But you were the one that told me that age was just an illusion!”
“Amber, I’m being serious. This is a very fatal and unnatural situation. You have no proper defence against this being, and trying to stop the Dr Insanis himself? It would be a suicide mission, girl, and nobody knows where he’s located.”
Amber frowned, glancing at Cressela’s book.
“Cressela,” she murmured to herself. Then she looked up at Ruey. “Cressela. She must know where he’s located! After all, she escaped from wherever it was that they were being kept.”
“Amber,” her grandfather continued, capturing her hand in his and looking into her eyes earnestly, “this won’t go the way you think. It is not a fantasy adventure. This is a fatal, dangerous case - I cannot...”
His words trailed off as he watched Amber get up and come closer to him.
“I don’t want to do it without your permission, Ruey,” she whispered to him, “but I will. I will. You would have if you were my age and in my position. I can’t just move on from this. I’m just as much a part of it as I want to be.”
He watched her closely, unblinking, for a long moment. Then he sighed, rubbing and squeezing the brim of his nose.
“You are one stubborn, fearless, silly girl,” he groaned, but a smile was forming on his face. “What do you plan to do first, Amber?”
“I need to find Cressela,” she answered, picking up the book and pushing it back into her bag. “I need to find her, return the book and try to communicate without seeming like a threat.”
“Or being killed,” he added, shaking his head. Amber gave him a half-smile, shrugging.
“I have to try.”