Kevin Allen – Writer ◊ Melissa Bird – Editor ◊ Tia Myricks – Production ◊ Krystal Clear Logics – Promotion and Digital Marketin
“Young man!” Miriam takes note of the grating in her voice. Not too many years ago she would have relished the way Cory ogled her. The way his eye lingered dreamily above her bust-line, like young men are prone to do on this side of the world when they see a woman they fancy.
Miriam has always taken pride in the way she looks. She spends countless hours each day making sure nothing is out of place. Not even a hint of sagging skin or bloating on her body, so there should be nothing wrong with a young man admiring her hard work. The slight grate to her voice is a complete shock to her, needless to say.
Maybe it’s because his eyes lingered far too long on a woman whose station was above him. A young man of his birth would be executed in certain ages Miriam had lived through, had he dared walk into a room she was in. But these are times of reconciliation. Different times than the days she relished being worshipped. And even in those days, this particular young man would be worth a king’s ransom for his power alone.
Still, he needed to show respect to one such as her. Miriam watches Cory as he comes to his senses and begins to struggle against her hands, which are pressed to his torso to keep him from getting up too fast. She put it there as soon as he groaned the first time.
Miriam takes a breath to make sure her next words are spoken like a lady and not an old crone. Still, she finds solace in the fact that his eyes are staring into hers and not where they were a moment ago. “Do remember, I have eyes. Nice eyes at that.” She says playfully.
Cory flushes with embarrassment. His eyes search the room in order to keep from looking at her. Was he just staring at her boobs? Of course he was. Did she catch him staring at them? Cory hoped not but she did mention her eyes. She did catch him.
When the woman says nothing more, Cory takes a breath and tries to remember where he is. To be honest, he doesn’t even know how he got here? He lets the memory of what happened breath in through his nostrils. He’d gotten caught. They caught him in a safe house on his way out of the basement. They were waiting for him. Armed men from Gencor.
Something pinched him when he started fighting the people that rushed into the room. He stumbled. Cory doesn’t remember anything after the people in the room took him up by the arm. He’d been too weak to fight back. So who was this woman and how did he get here?
This place should be a Gencor containment facility. It could be. Complete with psychic blocking material to keep him from peering outside the walls of this room. He’d never heard of that kind of thing until the first time Gencor took him. Simone told him how it worked. Gencor is thorough when they bring in their prisoners. Hunter told him that. So had Rory.
Cory tries to sit up but feels the hands pressing gently against his chest. More important, he can also feel her telepathic prompt to be calm. Did she know? She’d been in his head a good while now, Cory realizes. “Where am I?”
Miriam studies him. Not exactly the squeamish reaction she’d expected, flailing hands or trying to escape. This is nothing Miriam could laugh at, but at least she won’t have to expend any energy guarding his thoughts. “Not where you think you are, I assure you.” Her voice comes at the perfect pitch this time. A reassuring one like she wanted.
Cory weighs her words carefully because she’s not giving him anything he can use. She’s good. “And where would that be?” Cory coaxes her hand from his chest but is unable to stop her from helping him sit then stand. When Cory wobbles, she holds him by the arms to steady him and keep him from falling over. Cory shrugs her hands off him, he doesn’t know why he would, but there is something about her. “Who are you and where do I think I am?” He asks.
“Humph!” Miriam raises her nose at him. He is taller than her by a hair. She had thought Cory was shorter. She is satisfied with his lank though. “I do suppose you should thank me for risking my life to save yours when you come to your senses.” Miriam thumbs her nose at Cory again instead of answering his questions. She delights in the shame smoothing his cheeks. She decides offering him more should make him malleable. “My name is Miriam. You can figure out where you think you are for yourself.” She offers sweetly. “If I give you water or food will you spit it at me as well?”
Oh! Cory shuffles his right foot uncomfortably. Real smooth. First he gets caught staring at her boobs. Now he’s insulted her. And she rescued him? She doesn’t look like she could. Cory checks around the room again to see that they’re alone. Cory eyes the expensive looking smoke-gray blouse and skirt she has on. And the tapping heels look just as expensive.
“I’ve had time to change into something fashionable!” Miriam sasses. Cory at once meets her eyes. “Imagine that!” Miriam scowls. Then she points to a spot behind Cory. “There is water and pine juice in the Carafes behind you.” She says. “Quite valuable those containers. Please see that you don’t damage them or I shall have to find a way for you to compensate me for them.”
After hesitating, Cory turns and is finally able to see the room. It’s a bedroom. A fully furnished bedroom with artwork on the walls, silky curtains and glistening furniture that include a long sofa positioned against a back wall and chairs and a small work desk. Feint green paint cascades the wall like the waters Cory sees on posters of exotic destinations. Beside a well-made bed is a cart with four pitchers with liquid in them, all of them crystal except one, darker in color.
Miriam catches his head movement when he takes a look at the floor where he woke up and then at the bed. “The sheets are the finest Egyptian wool I could find. Had you been darted with poison instead of a tranquilizer, you were not soiling them.” She quips even as she relishes the quick flinch she sees.
Cory again examines the contents of the cart near the bed. Miriam follows the movement of his head.
“I don’t know if you drink wine with your meals, but there is an excellent year on ice for your enjoyment. I had my cook prepare a fine selection of chicken and steak with mushroom and provisions. Rice as a consideration.” Miriam approaches. She then points to the nightstand where a phone and clock sits. “I will leave you to dine. If you wish to find me simply pick up that phone and hold down the page button and say my name.” She considers. “Or if you wish company I can have the food brought down to the dining hall. I can always have something prepared for myself and join you.”
Cory shakes his head. He’s embarrassed himself enough for one day.
Miriam points to an adjoining door, feet from the bed, between two windows on the north side of the room. “A full bath you can use to clean up. The closet has been stocked with clothes that fit you, so are the drawers. Make yourself comfortable. Eat and get some rest.”
Cory blinks disbelief. He doesn’t want to say anything.
“My servants will see to everything you need while you’re my guest. Each button has a label with a name and title. They can find me if you forget my name.” She needles.
Cory doesn’t know what to say. She rescued him, right? “Why would you do all this? Risk your life to rescue me from Gencor, and now this?”
Miriam considers her choice of words carefully before thinking of a full answer. “You and I have the same adversary, Mr. Raymond. It would have been stupid not to try.”
“You know my name?”
“You clearly need some rest.” Miriam says.
“Do I seem the type who would risk her neck for a nobody?” Miriam asks bluntly as she nudges past him on her way to the dolly near the bed. There she removes one of the covers from the food items on the cart. The aroma sends Cory’s taste buds into overdrive and moistens his tongue. “Come. Eat. Drink. We’ll talk when you’re in your right mind.” Miriam demands even as Cory starts toward the food with his stomach gurgling.
How long had it been since he ate?
Cory wakes with sunlight stinging his eyes through parted window curtains. A slender young woman is standing by a fresh cart near the bed. Another young girl is on the other side of the room parting the rest of the curtains. It is morning already. Cory had eaten, showered, and fallen asleep in a drunken fit of gastro-appreciation. The food and the drinks were delicious. He even sampled the whole bottle of wine. A slight numbness to his head reminded him of that.
He’d slept all night, obviously. He could see a kettle and various covers on the cart that was not part of what he’d fallen asleep staring at. No bones were on it either. And he would have definitely remembered the girl staring at him, had she been there last night.
When the young woman by the windows finishes her task Cory still hadn’t said a word to the young woman standing by the cart, waiting patiently. They’re simply staring at one another. The woman by the window turns and stands eyeballing him too.
“Morning.” Cory says, remembering his manners.
“Morning, sir.” The young women greet him.
His eyes find the woman near the windows. She immediately takes a breath. “Shall I get the bath ready for you or press a shirt and pant?”
Cory’s mind goes numb for a second. “Uh… No.”
“Will you need help dressing?” She asks.
His eyes almost come out of his head. “No!” He says too abruptly. “I-I-I can dress myself, thanks.”
The woman by the cart snorts, the other giggles. Cory turns his head to look at the woman by the cart. She begins removing the lids, rests a hand on the teapot. “If you’re ready to eat I have been ordered to prepare what you need.”
Cory doesn’t answer. He looks from one woman to the next. He’s not moving the sheets at all. And they’re not moving, he realizes. But his stomach speaks for him when he’s unable to. The woman by the cart raises the lids on the plates to reveal a thick porridge-like bowl and a plate of eggs scramble.
“Tea or coffee, sir?” She asks.
“Cory,” he says when she stands staring at him a few moments. “My name is, Cory. And I’ll take orange juice, if you have it.” He says.
The woman offers a curt smile and tips her head. Reaches behind the kettle to a small white jug and pours the yellow content into a glass. “Freshly squeezed, of course. Would you like ice in it, sir?”
“Cory.” Cory reminds her. The woman looks a year or two younger than he is, but who’s to tell if they aren’t the same age. Plus she is making him feel old with that, sir stuff. “What’re your names?”
“My name is Winn,” the woman at the cart says. She seems at ease with the introduction. Like she’s done it before.
The woman at the window, though, she looks uneasy. “My name is Anita.” She says nervously when Cory looks around at her.
“Anita and Winn.” Cory recites. Both women nod. “No ice please.” Cory says when he sees Winn’s hand hovering over the ice as if she’s waiting on his decision. Cory reminds himself that he’s never encountered a maid before in his life. He had seen shows, though he didn’t know they were trained to wait so patiently.
Winn doesn’t wait for another word. She begins pulling covers from all the dishes. Each time she moves a dish she gives Cory a sly smile and shovels them on the tray. When she’s done arranging plates and removing covers she says, “Shall I feed you, sir?” She asks then quickly corrects. “Cory?”
Cory shakes his head gingerly. Notices that Anita is still near the window looking at him. She seems like she’s waiting for him to answer a question he didn’t hear her ask. “I’m sorry,” Cory says awkwardly. “Did you ask a question, I didn’t hear?”
Anita’s eyes bulge. Her head goes back and forth rapidly. Three shakes. Than she stares at him. After a while she relaxes. It sinks in. He doesn’t know the rules of the house. “I will wait to see if you need anything else from me.” She says sheepishly. She offers a most nervous smirk with her words. Gulps when Cory looks at her too long.
When they both realize that Cory has no ill intentions they both take a breath. Both beam him warming smiles. “Miss says you’ve had a rough night.” Winn tells Cory. “We will not be far from here if you need anything.” She points to the phone, two specific buttons with both their names on them. “Use either button and we’ll come. We’ve been assigned to do whatever it is you need.” She finishes.
It takes an hour to eat, shower, and dress in jeans and a red T-shirt. Cory checks himself in the mirror before he walks into the closet with brand sneakers lining the walls. He chooses a lace-less pair of black sneakers with a name he can’t pronounce. They slip onto his feet as if it was made for them. When he’s finished, Cory checks himself in the long mirror and then heads out to the room.
Miriam is sitting on a chair in the room, under one of the windows nearest the door. Her red hair is pooled atop her head with small drips hanging down the back. She is wearing a plain black dress hanging just above her ankles and cut to her neck. Flat brown moccasins cover her feet beneath it. A tiny mimic of Miriam is standing by the window, leaning on the sill looking outside the window.
The child doesn’t turn to look at Cory. She keeps staring outside the window. The child, Kiren, merely acknowledges his presence with a quick glance before giving her attention to the rolling hills outside.
Once Cory enters the room, Miriam looks him up and down. The look that flashes across her face isn’t one of delight. Miriam thinks he could have done better in his selection of clothes. She would have chosen a pair of dress shoes, slacks, a nice shirt and maybe a tie to compliment it. Right now he looks like an orphan, she would be sure to make suggestions for tomorrow.
Cory has stopped just outside the closet door observing Miriam and her child. He says nothing.
“You look rested,” Miriam tells him. “The servants let me know you were awake and I thought I would come see how you were.” She looks away from him to the window. To the child, to beyond the child whom she has yet to introduce. “They treated you well, I expect?”
“Yes. Thanks.” Cory says nervously.
“Good!’ Miriam doesn’t hint at nerves. “I wouldn’t want to have a guest leaving my home unsatisfied with the treatment they get here. The food is to your liking?”
“Very much!” Cory says after thinking about it. There was no complaint, and even if he had any they would stay in his head. His rescuer had been more than kind. Though, Cory still had the sense she wanted something in return. But what?
“Excellent!” She nods appreciatively. “I want you to feel at home, here. You will remain with me here so I can personally mentor you in the proper use of your powers.”
The child at the window snickers. She doesn’t turn to look at either Cory or Miriam.
Miriam seems not to notice the child at all. Though, Cory did notice a visible twitch at the neck she tries to conceal. Miriam turns to look at Cory as if the child isn’t even in the room. “You are free to do as you please here. No one will stop you. I’ve let everyone here know that you are my honored guest and should be treated as such.” Miriam recites.
Cory nods with a nervous smile. He quickly glances at the child who still hasn’t been introduced. Miriam is staring outside the window pensively when he looks at her.
“I don’t suppose you have anyone you want to notify that you are alive and well?” Miriam continues. Says “good” when Cory shakes his head after thinking it through. “It will be best if no one knows where you are. The less likely they are to be coerced into giving up your location to the people who are after you.”
“Gencor!?” Cory names his pursuers.
Miriam doesn’t answer, at first. She gives Cory a blank stare instead. Then, as if thinking out loud she says “of course.” A second later she is focused on the morning outside the window again.
Cory takes a look at the child by the window and wonders who she is. As if she senses his attention she turns her head slightly to look at him with a silly grin. Then she faces the window again.
“What do you know of Gencor, Cory?” Miriam interrupts his thoughts. She still doesn’t introduce the child to him. The same child that is no more than a hand’s length away from her.
Cory has to admit right away, he doesn’t know much about the company. Even Hunter didn’t know much more than it seems to be a research facility on Sixth. The company itself is a private entity listed under a limited liability seal in Massachusetts. They are listed as having multiple facilities around the United States. Globally as well. “They’re a big company.” Cory offers.
Kiren, the child, offers Cory a piteous look and then looks back outside the window.
“I see,” says Miriam. “Cory, Gencor is a privately funded entity that facilitates capture and study. It is, in essence, a shell company that operates as if it is a scientific facility. And it is one of many owned and operated by the same – individual partners.” Miriam breaks down. “On the bed are three folders, each containing some three hundred pages. Once you’re finished with those I will give you a fourth folder, which we will browse together.” She continues. “It will give us time to get acquainted, I suppose.”
Before Cory could head to the bed, the child at the window turns on her shoeless heels and heads for the bed. She stops and grabs a snack from the fresh cart that the maids must have brought in while Cory was in the shower. The child stuffs cookies in her mouth and grabs another handful before hopping up on the bed and going through the folders.
Miriam doesn’t acknowledge the child, nor does she look at Cory. But her voice betrays her when she says “It will be good if you take the opportunity to go over everything in them.” She gives Cory a look. Then smiles. “Of course, being a young man, I do suppose you would like to see the outside of this place?”
Cory looks at the folders on the bed and the child rifling through them. Notably, the fact that Miriam is not correcting the little girl for going through the folders as if she’d been given permission to. Children are disciplined for things like that. Obviously, not this child. But, Cory is only a guest here no matter how comfortable Miriam tries to make him feel.
The little girl quickly moves from folder to folder until the last one. Then she rests on the bed eating the pastry she’d taken after she ate the cookie. “Quite thorough.” Kiren says in thick Queen’s English, to Miriam. “Well done.”
Miriam doesn’t answer. She keeps looking at Cory, who is looking at her. “Would you prefer to read them first?” Miriam’s voice is pitched higher than it was moments ago. “I would be glad for a walk to clear the air.” She quickly offers.
Kiren sits on the bed looking at her. “It’s more important he sees what’s in these folders than what’s outside these walls.” She states forcibly. For a moment, Miriam finds herself staring into rebellious little eyes before she finds her senses and looks to Cory. “Tell her you will remain here to read the reports, Cory.”
Cory looks at the bed and the child munching her snacks and mouthing off to his host.
distracted by the child, Miriam hasn’t seen him look at the bed. “It’s settled then,” Miriam gets up from the chair and straightens the dress as it falls to her ankles. “I’ll prepare a guide so you don’t get lost. I believe I am a little fatigued, you know. I will rest while you get acquainted with this place.”
“There will be wisdom in staying and reading these files, Cory.” Kiren advises while she leans over to pour a cup of juice and drinks it. She picks up a folder and holds it out for Cory. She continues to stare at Miriam. “She did a fantastic job and it would be a shame to waste any good she does.”
Miriam ignores her and is staring at Cory. She almost falls flat when he reaches for the folder and takes it from Kiren. “Y-you see her?” Miriam stutters.
Cory reacts with silent fright. What did he get himself into?
“Of course he can.” Kiren says. She turns to look at Cory. “She thinks I’m a figment of her imagination, you know. All these years and she still doesn’t get it.”
Neither does Cory. But he doesn’t say anything. His eyes roll from Kiren to Miriam.
“I don’t…” A vividly shaken Miriam is struggling not to scream at the child.
“Of course you don’t.” Kiren says calmly. She turns to Miriam and offers a mischievous smirk. “I shall allow him to discover the truth for himself, Mother. But I shall be involved in the matter of this young man’s care.”
“Who are you t…”
“Do we truly have to discuss that again?” Kiren scolds coldly. “I shan’t wish to scare him but I am more than willing to show you again.”
Confusion and disbelief presses Cory to speak. “What’s going on here?”