Chapter 7: The Meeting that was… kind of
When Kylin reopened her eyes, she hungrily devoured the sight before her.
18 people sat around a long, bubble material-created table, with no chairs. Madam Amber and Kai, who had entered only recently, were the only ones talking to each other in a friendly manner. In fact, they were the only ones in the room that actually talked at all. The room was deadly silent, but the atmosphere was so tense and heavy that Kylin could feel the weight of it pushing down on her shoulders. Kylin felt as if she had interrupted a serious conversation. All of the Oblicion member’s faces were closed up, like Madam Amber’s face had been when Kylin first met her.
Kylin stood there awkwardly, blushing madly. The Oblicion stared at her, inspecting her, and when Kylin looked at Madam Amber or Kai for assistance, they were in a corner of the room, whispering to each other, and both didn’t notice Kylin’s plea for help. After a few seconds of silence, an elderly woman with a bob cut and eyes that seemed to bulge out of her head like a bug - they appeared so large- cleared her throat.
“Child, what are you doing here? This is Oblicion-related business. Go back to school or something, you are interrupting an important conversation.”, the old lady scoffed, even going to the point of getting up and started pushing Kylin out where she came from. Kylin, who was much stronger then the lady, let herself get dragged out nonetheless, confused. Didn’t Madam Amber inform them of her coming? Just as she was pondering this, Madam Amber’s voice yelled out, a bit loudly, “Jane, what in the world are you doing! Didn’t I tell you about Kylin joining us today? Literally the reason I called everyone here in the first place?”
The bug-faced lady twisted herself around, promptly replying with “No, you didn’t Amber. All of us waited here for 10 extra minutes before you even got here, and then you spent the time before this girl came in”, she said, shaking Kylin a bit, “talking with Kai. You always tell him secret things you do but don’t tell us! Now how is that fair?”
Madam Amber awkwardly grimaced. “Oh, yeah, I didn’t tell you guys, my bad. This is Kylin. Her mentor died, so-”
Another Oblicion member stood up from the table. “A person died? Why don’t you ever tell us these things, Amber? And you can’t just bring random people along with you! Just because I’m related to you doesn’t mean I’ll give you any slack, okay!” The man who spoke seemed a lot younger than most of the other adults around him. He scoffed, facing Amber. As Kylin squinted at him, she could see a resemblance in the expression of his and Madam Amber’s expression. She never knew that Madam Amber had a brother at all, nevertheless in the Oblicion, but then again, her information about the Oblicion came from one class period in her 2nd year of schooling, so she wouldn’t know that much anyways.
Madam sighed, taking a step away from Kai, who nervously sat down near the table, trying to smile at the furious Oblicon members. When the bug- eyed lady still fumed and the younger man remained standing, Kai cleared his throat once. However, when no one paid attention to him, eyes on the conflict in front of him, he sighed and stayed silent, beaming supportful eyes at Kylin.
“I was just about to tell you, Rhy. Now sit down.” The younger man bit his lip and his fists tightened, but he did as he was told. Madam Amber glared at the bug-eyed lady, who straightened her back and cleared her expression. Kylin stared in shock as Madam Amber’s face changed from the one she had on when she was casually joking with everyone. It was similar to how Kylin had first met Madam Amber, when she was acting serious. But this wasn’t the same at all. Kylin shivered as the old lady’s eyes glinted with threats, and her demeanor intensified. The air seemed to grow frigid as everyone stood up in their seats alert. When Madam Amber acted like this, they knew it was a sign she was not to be interrupted or argued against at all. They were so used to her joking demeanor that they tended to underestimate her, until moments like this. Moments like this reminded them that there were some people truly meant to be leader, and reminded them who really was in charge of the Oblicion.
“Now remember, everyone, who really runs this place, me. So if you care at all to question my behavior, you can take that up with me at a later date.”, she snapped, surveying the attentive people staring at her. When no one spoke up, she smiled a chilling smile that sent tremors down Kylin’s back. It was like the joking, reassuring yet slightly scary person she had been with earlier was all just a joke, a facade to get Kylin to warm up to her. As she began to speak again, she didn’t even bother to turn her head to acknowledge Kylin.
“Good. Now, let me give you a summary of what happened today, and why I called this meeting in the first place. And hold your tongues until after I explain everything, even if you do have a comment.”, Madam Amber stated, clearing her throat.
“Today, Owen ‘died’.”, Madam Amber said, fingering quotation marks into the air. There were a few gasps by a couple people but most sat calmly in their seats, waiting for Madam Amber to continue. The man who was called out from earlier, Rhy, had his fists clenched on the table, and a vein pulsed on his forehead.
Meanwhile Kylin looked at everyone’s faces in confusion. What did Madam Amber mean? Wasn’t Mr. Owen actually dead? At least, that’s what she told Kylin. Was Madam Amber lying to her? And why was Kylin even in this room, listening to this conversation?
“Now, you all know what that means. I know you all hate when I do this, but it was necessary. After all you were the ones who voted on killing off people who found out about Them, so not my problem! I just did my job. It was simple, don’t worry. All I had to do was use one of these bad boys,” Madam Amber flashed a shining metallic device that Kylin had never seen before, “and poke a hole through his orb suit. I watched as he fell to the Down Below, so don’t worry. Even if he does survive at such a high distance, which I doubt, we can always tell Them that it’s an early package for the year. Heh.”
As Madam Amber went on, Kylin grew frozen with horror. Questions raced through her mind. Did Madam Amber… kill Owen? And why was no one reacting about it? Who was Them? Early packages?! What was that supposed to mean? What most caught her interest, however was the mention of the Down Below, as if it was a real thing. Was it- truly real? Kylin couldn’t move from her place, afraid if she even twitched the Oblicion would realize she was here the whole time, listening to the crazy confessions. Even Kai listened intently, the warm gaze in his eyes hardening with cruel laughter.
Once she had finished speaking, Rhy immediately stood up, clearing his throat. Kylin thought he was going to shout at her for saying such insane and horrible things, hoping he would be a sense of sanity in this place, but he didn’t do that. Instead, he asked, “So, what are we going to do next then, Amber.”, putting emphasis on the old lady’s name and stretching it out as if it were something disgusting you would step on.
A lady with a right eye that kept blinking nonstop and a finger that twitched, poking the table at random intervals, shook the hair out of her face and stuttered, “Amber, as mu- much I respect you , I ha- have to go with Rhy on this one. Obviously, you didn’t th-think this through. What about his family? Doe-doesn’t he ha-have family? What are you going to do about that? Wh-what if they say som-something?” After saying her piece she slumped back down at the table, her whole body occasionally shaking.
Madam Amber looked slightly uncomfortable at that statement. She slumped down on a seat and muttered to herself, stroking her hand in the place where her thumb once was. “Great”, she mumbled, putting her fingers on the bridge of her nose, “Ha ha, what if I told you guys I -...”, she trailed off, apparently lost in thought. Rhy smirked, inspecting Madam Amber’s pitiful state, and opened his mouth to speak when Madam Amber spoke again.
“That I got it taken care of, like always? You people always think the worst of me, don’t know. That I’m an unfit”, she walked around the table where the Oblicion members sat, poking at Rhy’s irritated face, causing him to jerk back in surprise,“irrational”, she had walked on, pointing her pointer finger in the bug- eyed woman’s face, “unreliable”, next, a jab at the slumped down lady’s back, who didn’t even flinch in reaction, “OLD HAG”. The last line she screamed out loud, thumping her fist onto her hands.
Kylin was shaken at Madam Amber’s behavior. Wasn’t she acting fine earlier? She went from almost kind and supportive to Kylin in the beginning, to terrifying and nerve wracking at the end. How did she get this worked up over people raising genuine concerns? It seemed as if it was more than just a personality change. A person couldn’t act so strange like this naturally, right? In fact, all of the Oblicion had some strange tic or appearance that seemed unusual, in her opinion. The stuttering woman, the lady with the large eyes that seemed almost unnatural, almost as if they weren’t even a part of her. They hadn’t even moved to follow along with Madam Amber’s freakout, they seemed to swivel. Swivel. Not move, but swivel. Kylin’s back began to chill. She looked more closely at Kai. How was it that she couldn’t notice that his right ear was missing? And that on the back of his head, a white, long slash of a scar diagonally crossed his skin. When Kylin took a glance at the man named Rhy, she saw his legs weren’t even the same length. Not that Kylin wasn’t freaked out by the mention of Mr. Owen was taken by whoever Them was, but she tried to focus on what was in front of her, so she wouldn’t just straight up go insane. More specifically, why all of the Oblicion seemed to have strange disfigurements all over themselves.
Now Kylin that the best thing to do was to stay silent and hope for the best, hoping that the unsettling Oblicion would ignore her and she could dwell on what she heard in a safer setting. But she knew the Oblicion weren’t dumb, and even Madam Amber, who was acting like a madwoman at the moment, knew where Kylin was this whole time and was keeping an eye on her. The part about this whole mess that confused her was why the Obilcion were letting her stay and listen in to the outrageous statements they were saying that they didn’t seem to want the public of Oblicity to know about. Mr. Owen saw whoever the unidentified “Them” was and was sent to what might have been his death, so why would Kylin still be alive after hearing about this? She wanted to say that they were so into the heat of the moment that they forgot about Kylin in the first place, but Kylin ruled out that thought pretty quickly, as she highly guessed that the Oblicion wouldn’t be that distracted by a few arguments. There must have been a reason for this, right? Or did the Oblicion truly not care that she was even in the room, listening to their secrets?
No one was speaking, and seemed listless with the exception of Lady Amber, who paced back and forth the room while, cursing under her breath, occasionally screaming at a Oblicon member enough to make the flinch in their lethargic manners.
Was this how the famed Oblicion committee, the head of the whole of Oblicity and pride of the city, acted? Where was the collaboration? Where was the educated conversation and formality of a meeting? This just seemed like a high powered mess, and after Lady Amber confronted the people who tried to argue back everyone just seemed to wait for another person to take action.
Taking this moment of silence, Kylin hesitantly slid closer to the wall where she entered from and also the only place where she could leave from. When she moved, no one seemed to notice her, so she wiped her sweaty, clammy hands on her garb and inches even closer to the entryway. At her perspective, she was behind the table, so most of the people seated wouldn’t be able to see her straight on unless they strained their eyes, or even turned ever so slightly. When no one moved or seemed to see Kylin moving away, she gulped, dashing towards the exit, hoping to find any random Oblicion worker and explain to them what she heard, hoping it was all just a big joke or a misunderstanding on her part. Whatever it was, she couldn’t be in here any longer, with the room’s stuffling atmosphere. As she passed through the dark barrier, her thumping heart pulse slowed, and she huffed a sigh. Was she safe from whatever had happened there?
Kylin couldn’t help but peek her head in to see what was going on in there, but regretted it the moment she did it as Madam Amber grabbed her back inside the room by her neck and threw her to the ground. As Kylin froze in the shock, stuck on the ground, the old lady giggled. Madam Amber bent down and dragged Kylin’s face to hers by Kylin’s ears, watching as Kylin tried to squirm out of the surprisingly strong grip.
“Thought we might of… forgotten about you, correct? Well, we didn’t. In fact, I was just about to give you your treat for knowing that Mr. Owen even existed. You think I would let you stay here and just listen in for no reason? Ha, I was meaning to get rid of you like I did with his little precious girls, and just drop you off to a fun trip to the Down Below as soon as we were alone. You proved kind of interesting, however, so I decided to do something different.”, Madam Amber whispered, pinching Kylin’s ears even tighter and digging her fingernail into the thin flesh. Kylin’s face twisted in a mix of pain and fear, eyes widened in shock, as she tried to hold in a whimper as blood started trickling down her ear and Madam Amber’s fingers. When she looked at Kai in the corner of her eyes, he averted his gaze, and did nothing.
As a drip of blood fell to the ground, the old lady removed her grip from Kylin. Kylin tentatively reached to her left ear, feeling for the source of the pain. Her whole body felt numb as her fingers touched the hole where Madam Amber had punctured through her skin, even as she flinched at the continuous throbbing. Kylin felt helpless. She was so shocked at the events that happened that she decided to give up and just lay there on the ground, feeling her blood drip down her neck. She raised her shaking, bloodstained hands to her face and then dropped them in defeat.
“Now Kylin, I’ve heard of you . The silly girl who was so panicked last year she couldn’t even go anywhere without breaking into sobs. The girl with the sister who was so empathetic she could even read feelings and yearnings of her sister. Still, I guess that sister wasn’t good enough to tell that the girl was someone who yearned for something more, something that was even- unworldly.”, Madam Amber replied, letting Kylin react to her words.
Kylin’s face paled, jerking out of the motionless stance she was in. Madam Amber knew her secret? The one that she was sure she had never told a whisper of anyone, ever. It was silly to even think about wanting to see what The Down Below was like, being a myth, but Kylin believed deep in her heart that it was real. She wanted to go there, someday, and see what it was like experiencing what she only could feel in words. It just seemed so much more...exciting then this place. She wanted to know what “electricity” was, what “carrots” were. It seemed such an exotic and colorful place. There were often nights when she felt so bored and tired of life that seemed so grey and dull that she would pretend that she was exploring The Down Below, and was just visiting Oblicity.
That was her secret, and while she had asked questions about The Down Below often, it wasn’t as much as any other child who became curious at that age of a slightly forbidden topic. The problem was when she got older, she became fixated, almost to a point of obsession over The Down Below, often being labeled as the daydreamer for spending hours in school just seeming to stare out into the sky and smile. And perhaps this was partly because she wasn’t a very social person - she found interacting with people partly uncomfortable, unlike her sister - but she almost found a solace in peacefully contemplating situations where she found herself living there, or imagined herself exploring the lands and meeting new, interesting people there.
Her panic attacks had originally started a year ago when she started wondering if The Down Below was really just a myth, and that she had wasted so much of her life trying to believe and hope for nothing at all. She was close to finishing school the next year at that time, and it almost shocked her system into realizing that nothing had come from a result of her daydreams. Her life would just continue at the rate it was now- she would finish school, get a job that would last the rest of her life, and that was it. Now, Kylin knew that it was her fault for getting overly interested in The Down Below, but she couldn’t help it. She would be eating breakfast one day, munching on some oblich when something would catch her eye, and she would suddenly get triggered to fall into a wormhole of thoughts and worries that eventually led her to become a sobbing mess. It took almost half a year to finally calm herself enough to be able to not react to the mention or thought of The Down Below in tears.
Now, at age 18, she was more secretive about her habits and thoughts, she was more collected and knew how to hide her emotions. Only rarely did a secret thought about the Down Below appear, but she was able to quickly stuff it down. It wasn’t that thinking about The Down Below hurt, but it was more that she didn’t want to open up that old wound and get sucked back in to what she had to experience.
Occasionally sometimes she would allow the thought to rise up to the surface of her brain and let it drift about. It was the same feeling of taking a peek at a secret treasure and marveling over for it for a quick moment before putting it back. And oftentimes the thought seemed less as a danger but more of a quick taste of something marvelous. But Kylin knew that letting her secret overpower her thoughts would just lead to a cycle of the obsession she had gone through before, so she only let the thought slide around in her head for a second. There were times where she even got angry for trying to restrict herself from thinking about The Down Below, that it wasn’t fair she wasn’t able to enjoy life as much with knowing that the thought would be always there in the corner, floating around, waiting to be opened. And now the leader of Oblicion, who despised even the mention of The Down Below, had revealed that she already knew all about her deep, dark desires.
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