Jen unfolded the paper delicately and frowned. I looked over her shoulder and squinted my eyes. The writing was miniscule. Jen held the paper closer to her face and started to read.
“At the edge of the ocean where the ships are held, the north star is the head to where- the writing is wet. I can’t read it.” She squinted and read it again.
“So what does that mean?” I inquired.
“We need to go to the marina,” She traced the words again, “And go north to find something.” Suddenly, the writing on the note shifted, the letters stretching and curling into a new riddle. Jen dropped it and held her hands up.
The writing was larger this time and I picked it up. For some reason, I could read this note much easier than all the other ones.
“When you reach the other land to the north, ask for Cali. They all know me.” I read. Jen watched me and sighed.
I quickly noticed heat building in my fingertips and pulled away quickly, not wanting to burn the only source of direction to my mother or my home. It dropped to the floor and before it hit the carpet it tore itself to pieces and the ashes formed a quiet pile.
“Dang,” Jen whispered, staring at the pile of ash, “Somebody is protective of their information.”
“You are right.” I looked up at her and smiled. Because despite the fact that my only biological family was somewhere far away, it felt good to have a… Jen. I wasn’t quite sure what to call her.
I heard gunshots and woke up quickly. I was laying on the floor of a hut. I rolled over and saw a little girl curled up next to me. I immediately realized I was looking at a younger version of myself. I stood up and put my back against the wall.
A man walked into the room and picked up the girl, holding her in his arms and walking out behind the house. More gunshots could be heard and a women came up the hill, tears streaking her face.
“I can’t do it! I can’t erase their only daughters memory! They’ll kill me if I don’t!” I could tell the women wasn’t my mother. She looked much older, like the lives she had destroyed were wrinkles on her face. The man handed her a small syringe and whispered something that sounded like,
“Give her a chance…” He says and nudges her down the hill.
“What does it do?” The women sniffled.
“It’s a light memory serum. Doesn’t do quite the damage that yours do. Gives them a chance.” He stated, rocking the little girl, a futile attempt to keep her silent.
“What if I get caught?” The women’s voice shook, as she took the small syringe. The man shrugged and walked back to the house, leaving the women sputtering in the yard.
I watched her a little longer. She had gray hair pulled into elaborate braids around her head, not a single hair sticking out of place. She had wide eyes, almost like a young child. She finally turned and started down the hill. She was the picture of confidence but I could tell she was falling apart. You could only handle so much hatred before you broke.
I followed her down the hill as I heard the door slam behind me and the man and girl disappeared.
When we reached the edge of the coast the women switched out her syringes and I noticed there was a girl, probably sixteen, watching from the trees.
Her large eyes looked much like the women in front of me and I realized she was the daughter of the crying women. The mother gave a young girl the injection and rolled her onto the raft, her face stoney.
“Change the world…” She murmured and disappeared back into the treeline, pulling the teen behind her. The teen suddenly darted out and grabbed the syringe and at that exact moment I heard a gunshot. In the trees. I heard a cry and the girl suddenly ran the opposite direction, survival instincts kicking in. I saw the hand of her mother behind I tree. She had been shot.
I sat up and breathed deeply. My bedroom smells like bacon and eggs. I heard the diner below me, music playing on low volume and the sleepy voices of travelers. I rolled over and pulled my blinds open.
The horizon was lit a purple color, the kind that happens when the sun is just getting ready to rise. I sighed and closed my eyes, the image of the dead women pasted to the back of my eyelids. I stood up and walked out of my door.
Jen’s door was slightly open, just enough for me to slip in. The moment I stepped in, the floor creaked and Jen stirred. I clenched my mouth shut.
Jen looked so peaceful asleep on the bed. Her red hair looked like a halo spread on her pillows. It was the most peaceful I had seen her. The line of worry that was always there when I was around had dissolved into her skin. Her eyelashes flicked open and she gasped.
“You scared me, Lorleah.” Her voice was uneven. She cleared her throat and sat up.
“We need to find my mom.” I stated, not moving from the side of the bed. Jen rocketed up and started to rifle through things around her room. She pulled out a pile of clothes, books, and a suitcase.
“Go to your room and grab as many clothes as you can fit into your suitcase. Bring them in here and I’ll help you pack. We need to get out of her pretty quick if we want darkness as our cover.” Jen finally looked up and smiled at me.
“So you have a boat. Right?” We were walking down dock of the marina. Boats shuddered in the waves, gently bouncing across the docks. Jen stopped in front of a small building dropping her small bag of food and water at her feet, propping up her suitcase. She shot me a grin.
“What’s the fun in that?” She shook the handle of the old door, smiling when a harder shake sent it flying open. She disappeared inside.
“So you’re going to steal a boat?” I yelled into the shack.
“Borrow, verb; to take and use something belonging to someone else with the intention of returning it.” She returned dangling a set of keys that even looked expensive.
“I don’t like this,” I stuttered, hearing the city start to come alive around us. Darkness was starting to disappear and I could feel my confidence dwindling.
“And that, my dear sister,” She started strutting down the dock like anyone else who owned a boat, “Is why it is fun.”
She hopped onto a boat and unlooped several ropes. She sat in the chair in front of the wheel and looked around. After several minutes of feeling around she found the keyhole and the boat sputtered to life.
“Miracle.” I said, staring at her. She smiled and reversed the boat and I sat down, rifling around for some breakfast.
Within minutes we were out of the main docking area. Not a single human in sight. The sun had come up now, lighting the water.
“What inspired this journey?” Jen suddenly asked, looking down at the dashboard, quietly turning the boat.
“I had a dream.” I explained the details to her and she looked confused.
“So randomly, a young girl is certified to have her memory erased because of who knows what?”
“Her family killed someone.” I remembered that now, I wasn’t sure how I knew it. Her mother had murdered her father.
“So… crime?” Jen asked, looking off to the side of the boat.
“I think so. It’s only the worst crimes.” How do I know this? I asked myself.
“So…” Jen shifted in her seat, “Did you or your family kill someone?”
I seat drop out from beneath as another memory started to form. The second one today. This time, I was sitting in the branches of a tree, watching myself be led down a hill to the water. I heard a gunshot and despite all my instincts, dropped from the tree and ran toward it. I found myself in front of a big red building with large wooden gates that hung open. There were several cages lined up on a platform, surrounded by people. A man stood in front of them, a small gun in his left hand.
Two of the men were already collapsed on the ground. The man in the next cage over quivered in the corner. The man with the gun started to speak.
“Mr. Zea, you are found guilty of killing the family on one of your close friends is that correct. Punishment: You are to be killed and your daughter, Lorleah, and your wife are being Erased.” The man bowed his head and I woke to the sound of a gunshot.