Alek bite in his toast, looking at the glass door. It was still early, but everyone in the house was slowly woking. The rays of sun were percing throught the window, illuminating the table. His mom had made coffee and was now on her computer. His dad was looking for some breakfast recipe, humming a song from his childhood. Alek couldn’t understand every word, but his Hindi classes were helping catching some. His father had moved to Canada when he was three years old. Son of an indan family, they moved to the country after the family industry had taken the attention of a bigger one. They became partners and moving was the best and easier option.
He could hear his older brother getting out the shower and the twins bickering playfully about a video game. The meteo announced a big sun and Alek wanted it to be worth. It was one of the last warm days of october, and a Saturday, to say the least. He and his friends would go to Kabir Kouba waterfall, in Wendake, to hang out and have a good time. They had planned to eat and maybe try to swim if the water wasn’t too cold. Her mother sat with a cup of coffee and took a sip, checking her emails on her computer. The sun was reflecting on her hairs. Brown wavy hair becoming golden strings. She had this peacefull look on her face. The one she was making when she was happy. No wonder she was her husband's favorite model for his painting. She clicked sent and look at him, smiling fondly.
“So Honey, what will you do today?”
He looked at her and shrugged. “We go at Wendake and we will have fun I guess.”
“You know I don’t like you to go there. Try not to get too near the waterfall, OK? ”
“Mom I’m not a baby. I won’t fall, c’mon.”
She gave him a look, and he raised his hand innocently. This look was able to scar anyone. He had once saw her scare off three grown businessman who wanted to prove themselves better than her in her own work field. A hard, treatening look, pursed lips.
“OK. I didn’t say anything. I’ll be careful don’t worry. I’m twelve, I know how to take care of myself.”
He heard his father chukle, stopping the lullaby. They had met at cégep. Their dad was involved in a multicultural project as one of the artist. The projects was in close collaboration with the student concil in which is mom was a member. They became friends and parted away after the graduation only to met back two years later. After six month, she was pregnant from their first son, Eneas and moved to a little appartment in Beauport city. At the twins birth, they found a little house to settle in, nearer to the big city, but still in a suburb. The house had a backyard and a little garden. Perfect to raise four kids.
Eneas entered the kitchen. He and Alek were looking more like their father than their mother. They had inherited his hooked nose and light-brown skin, but Alek had the dark green of their mother’s eyes. The twins, Thomas and Simon, had more of an olive skin. Eneas was wearing a plain shirt. The one he was always chosing when he wanted to go downtown before doing some yoga. He had started yoga classes about a year ago as a way to relieve the stress of end-term. Being in cégep in finances, Eneas always wanted to take over the familial industry. He had tried to bring Alek to some of his classes, but the teen wasn't interested in yoga.
“Look at him talking like he knows everything! We’ll have to call you Alek the Manitou!”
Eneas grinned with his tongue out and took a cup of coffee. Cracking his neck, he took a sip and sat, his back facing the sun. The father closed his book, announcing loudly they’ll have to stick to cheese omelette for a while and sat with them.
“So tonight’s our movie night. What will you boys chose?”
Each week, at Friday or Saturday, they had a movie night. Pop corn, chocolate, soft drink, everything was permitted. The house has a rule about no fast food during the week. Eneas and Alek were often breaking the rule when they were with friends. Their parents didn’t mind, as long as they were doing it outside. The two brothers would sometimes hang out togheter, as a way of bonding and Alek like this moments with Eneas. They would more than not go to the d'Youville Square, on the wall of the fort, and watch skaters. It was a popular place for people to go and even if it was illegal, policeman were only givin warning, not really bothering to watch out more. During winter, they would stay in the streets and avenues, squatting the cafés and little shops of the Vieux-Québec.
“Dunno, Simon and Thomas will probably fight before we can agree to the first one.”
Alek shrug and chuckled. The twins were more dynamic, had more energy. Thomas and Alek would often get in troubles, Simon staying in behind. They were closer in age, so the three of them would often stay togheter. Thomas was more into music and movies, was louder and taking more space. Simon in the other hand, was quieter. Like his father, he was into art and had lot of sketchbooks under his bed. When Alek and Simon were off to trouble, he would watch silently, not taking any part in it, but not snitching on them either.
Alek looked in his bag for his bus pass. It would be a great day, he could feel it.
He met Matthieu in the bus, sitting happily beside him. His friend welcomed him with an open bag full of food and an UVO game card. The bus stinked, a smell of mold and urine mixing togheter. There wasn't to much people at this hour. An old woman, looking right in front of her, sitting neatly, perhaps to remember the lady she once was. A girl reading a book on psychology and her friend, nose pointing at her phone, earbuds in. In the far back, a skinny guy was sitting. Only skin and bones, clothes to big for him, he didn't look that good.
“Dude! It will be awesome!"
The joy of his friend took Alek's attention back to him. Matthieu was his childhood friend. His mom knew Alek's since they were littles girls so it was only natural for the two boys to grow up togheter.
"My mom almost didn’t let me go tho.”
Matthieu put his bag at his feet and cracked his finger vaguely.
“It sounds bad said like that, but when the third child disappears, we'll do everything we want, finally."
Alec frowned. "It does sounds bad."
He knew his mother had a notebook where she was noting each day what he was wearing, where he was going, who was his friends. At this very moment, she was probably writing about his red T-shirt. He couldn’t blame her and he could at least hang out with friends, unlike many children he knew from his school.
Everyone knew about the Organization. They started centuries ago with Élizabeth, Marie-Neige and Hubert, from what the history books told. The three young French people had disappeared without any trace only to resurface deads, more than a decade later. Some says it started half a decade later, with one child born in 1589. She was five years old and her name was Marie. Then, in 1593, another disappeared and three years later, another. Found dead at different times. Laters, it happened again. No matter what, nobody ever escaped. Everybody was always found lifeless. Sometimes, it was days later, while still young, other times, the body was almost unrecognizable and other times, it was of old age. No one was accused nor found guilty. If a child was born in one year, the two others would be from this same year. They were only kidnapped at different ages: five, nine and twelve. At one point, it passed from children from France, to children from Québec. In 2003, two little five-year-old twins- Xalia and Fanny—, had disappeared in the middle of the night in the summer house of the family. Nobody believed it was from the Organization as they both disappeared togheter. In 2007, a nine-year-old boy, Seth, never came home from school and everyone knew.
When the two girls had been missing, a program was implanted. It was consisting of putting a little GPS chip in children's neck. The goal was to track in case of emergency and was supposed to be obligatory. Protestation were done, people were angry so only a few were indeed operated. They stopped the program as it was causing headaches, for some unknown reason, and the social climate was getting worse. Seth was one of the little one tested. When he disappeared, the chip never tracked him, locked at coordinates in the middle of a forest. They found trees, dirt and squirrels, but no boy. Now, everybody was on edge.
They arrived at the bus stop, where their friends were waiting, chatting. Josh’s hands were flopping in all ways while he seems to tell a fantastic story. He was in the drama class program, and had theatre class during week evening and the weekend. Even if he was the more recent in the group, he integrated himself quickly. Because of his anxious nature, he would often talk too fast for people to understand him. Sabrina and Julie were listening to him, smiling. When Matthieu and Alek got out of the bus, they joined them and everyone took the direction of the waterfall.
Sabrina talked about a robotic contest, which took Matthieu’s interest. They were cuddling and trying to find a project to build and present. Alek and Julie were listening to Josh talking about his incoming theatre presentation.
Near the ruins, an old man pointed his cane at the little group.
"You shouldn’t go too near of the waterfall, you kids! It’s dangerous!"
As the teen they were, they just laughed and went ahead.
They settle to the flat rock at the very top of the waterfall. They put their bag against the rocks of some ruins, under a tree. Sophie layed on her back and Josh, Matthieu, Sabrina and Alek played Battle with a card deck.
Mathieu was Alek’s childhood friend and was secure only with the people he knew. Wanting to be in robotic later and to specialize with Artificial intelligence, he was a totally other person when playing video games. When online, he would joke and be sarcastic, even letting out one swear or two from time to time. His anxious personality, however, didn't stop him to befriend Sabrina, his now girlfriend. The two of them met in a robotic convention and chose the same optional program when they started high school a month ago.
Sabrina was really different than him. She was a really confident girl who liked to talk in front of people and if Mathieu didn't know exactly what he wanted to do with the robotic, she did. Sabrina was seeing in the rising technology, a hope for a better world and was sure she could use it to reach this goal.
Julie was similar. Even if she didn't know what she wanted to do later, she didn't fear any fight if it meant she could protect her family. Julie and Angel were always talking about their big family and how they were ready to do everything to protect the people they loved.
Josh, for his part, was the most recent member in the group. Sharing some classes with Alek, they didn't really have anything in common, but could always find something to start a great conversation. He wanted to be an actor and was dreaming about celebrity and Hollywood. Putting everything in the practice, the teen would sometime ask them to help him. He had invited the group to his last representation and everyone had seen how he was taking his passion by heart. Josh told them later, that every time he had to play, the stress was so high that he would throw up a few minutes before the start of the act or would do nightmares weeks before. But his foster family were really supportive and would always help him relax.
Alec for his part, didn’t know where he wanted to go in life. He liked to paint, but as a side hobby with his father. He didn’t have any interest in his family industry, and wasn’t really good in any sport. Sometimes, he could see himself creating video games, but didn’t go if it was the right way to go.
At midday, after they ate, they climbed down the rocks going to the bottom of the waterfall. The cliff was rocky and they needed to be carefull not to fall. At the edge of the river, dropplets of water were projected to the sides, the rocks shining under the reflections. The sun was bright on their back, and they decided to swim in the water. It was icy, but welcomed. Under their feet, they could feel the marbels and rocks. Their skin were crawiling at first, their teeth, clacking togheter, but after a while, they warmed themselves and played Marco Polo.
Alek got out after half an hour, and lied on the ground. Using his bag as a pillow and a vest for some comfort, he looked the clouds. The sky was a bright blue and was teinting the sides of the cliff, giving them a beautiful color. He could hear his friend laughing and splashing the surface of the water and he smiled at this. The souting sound of the waterfall rocked him to oblivion.
It was a dreamless sleep. Merely a blink of an eye, but when he opened them, Alek wasn’t at the bottom of the cliff anymore. The little park, the waterfall and the ruins had turned into a green forest. All he saw was tall grass, big trees and foliage. Some yellow and red flowers stood against the green. Confused, the teen tried to remember how he got here in the first place. He didn’t have any memories of going somewhere else with his friends. Friends who were nowhere in sight.
“Hello?” He yelled. “Guys? Where are you? Is it a joke?”
Standing up, Alek’s head became fuzzy and he almost tripped over a rock beside him. Waiting to get back his balance, the teen listened to his fast heartbeat. Mathieu would never do such a joke to him and even if he would, how four teens would have managed to do that? He blinked, trying to stay as calm as he could. “Guys” his voice cracked and he gulped before raising the tone fairly. “Guys this is not funny!” His head was bobbling, his body was off balance and he felt the urge to throw up. He waited for something. Anything. A giggling somewhere that would prove that it was just a bad joke. He would then be angry at the group and one week later, they would forget everything. Or perhaps, a sign that it was just a nightmare like the ones Josh was having. But the only sounds coming were the forest’s ones. A bird giving a long yell before stopping and doing it again after a moment. The other one chipping not that far away. Others, far, that he could never recognize. No river to be heard. No cars or people chatting and he was alone. He was smelling the bark of the trees, the grass, the soil. Crying wasn’t an option right now, but the tears were menacing and his throat was painfully blocking a sob. All this was just a nightmare, it couldn’t be real. He would wake up, Josh would do a comic comment, they would go home and he would eat with his family. His little brothers, the devil twins, would bicker for the first movie to be picked, then the second, and they would fall asleep on the third. He wouldn't pass the night in a complete unknown forest.
His knees were shaking, his steps were unsure, but he walked. Everything was so unfamiliar, but he had to find his way, to get home. He didn’t have any idea of where to go. Couldn’t orientate himself. Nothing was familiar to him. One year ago, his class went to a school trip revolving about survival in forest. It had been the basic, really: how to start a fire, how much days you can survive without water and how to do a shelter. Of course, it was for a bunch of eleven years old so They were helped by the guide and they had all the necessary tools. He remember how he and Matthieu, teamed together, couldn’t start the fire, even with the guide help. The man finally gave up and lit it with a lighter. Maybe, thought Alek, it was a sign. The universe was saying to him ‘you will die in a forest!’. Here, there was no lighter, no fire stone. He had no idea how to orientate himself or how to find food.
The woods looked like it could swallow him. With its big and tall trees, its deep horizon and the sky invisible throught the patch of leaves. On a dead trunk, eaten by moss, insects were transporting food tiny amounts of food inside it. A strange bird with big feathering, s strong-looking body and long and curved beak, was watching him from above. He titled his head and kwacked. Never Alek had hear this sound. He didn’t even something similar in his life. If he had to pick what it sounded the most like, he would say “fear”. The strange bird puffled his feathers then, in silence, flew away, in the opposite direction.
A sound came out from behind and his heart missed painfully a beat. Cold sweat ran down his neck as he turned slowly. Afraid that a dog or a wolf would be showing his teeth, ready to kill him, the teen looked.
It wasn't any animal Alek had ever seen. The beast was muscular, didn't have any fur, but long claws and three eyes. The two horns on the top of his head had dry blood and unknown flesh sticking on it. It gave off a strong smell of putrefaction. It's teeth were red, blood dripping on the ground. A low growl ascend from his throat and Alek froze.
His body was shacking from head to toes and when the creature sprinted towards him, he started running as fast as he could. Tripping over fallen trees, rocks or holes in the ground, standing up quickly, his survival instincts was screaming at him to find somewhere he would be safe. The breath of the creature was loud, hungry and dangerously getting closer. The adrenaline rushing through his veins reminded him of hide and seek. But this time, there was no smile, only tears and flee or fight. His heart was beathing so fast, he could feel it against his chest. He was heavily sobbing, his vision blurry. Things were passing in front of him so fast, he couldn't comprehend what they were and he didn't care.
'I don't want to die!'
Alek was internally pleading to anything to save him. Every breath was hurting, twigs were hitting him and he was nauseous. He wished for this to be a nightmare and tried to pinch his arm. It wasn't a success as he lose his balance and fell on the ground. His breathe was exhaled harshly and he cought. His head spinned and he retched. The creature joined him in two strides and Alek rolled over just in time to avoid the claws of the beast. Dirt were projected onto his face and he took a second to analyse his position. He grabbed a rock beside him and threw it with all the force he could onto the creature. It got the jaw and it screamed, leaving enough time for the boy to ran away. The creature was soon on his trail, angrier than it was before.
When Alek though all hope was lost, when the creature was about to grab him, a loud crash was heard and the creature screamed in seems atrocious pain. The teen didn't look back and run as fast as he could, only stopping when is legs gave up. Falling abruptly on the ground, Alek looked frantically around, but the beast wasn't here anymore. Wheezing, his body was shaking uncontrollably, making him cough and gasping for air. The teen looked back where he had came from, his body tensing automatically, waiting for the monster to arise out of nowhere. He leaned against a tree and close his eyes, his fists clenched, his teeth biting inside his cheeks. He took a big inspiration and yelled as loud as he could.
The sun got lower, the forest got darker and he lost track of time. Calming himself, he tried to get up, but the multiple falls, the hits and the run had made is body aching. Multiples scratches and bruises were seen on his arms and legs. His clothes were dirty and torn. The teen knew he couldn't stay here. He had to find somewhere safe before all lights were gone, but he couldn't get himself to move. Getting as close as he could to a fallen tree, he looked around, afraid the monster would find him.
He remembered one time, as a kid, he went to a friend’s house. Not someone he was close with; just a kid from his class. His name was Gabriel and Alek didn’t remember much of what he looked like. Only that his father was an alcoholic and that his grandmother was actually the one taking care of him. He arleady had been in their home and Alek remembered more the house, than its actual inhabitants. It was little with a frontyard decorated by an old tree and a broke and moldy swing. The white paint of the house was all chipped and the interior was a mess. Bottles of beer - both empty or full- were scattered around the ground or stacked in corners. When here, they would play in the frontyard or wanders in the street. Sometimes, others kids passed the street. A boy, in peticular, who would kill frogs and open them at the side of the road.
On day, they went to a parc, but teenagers were hanging out in the far back. His friend told him they were dangerous, that they had beaten up children before and they needed to go back home right now. Alek didn’t recall how, but on they way, he was left alone in a four street corner. Maybe he had been distracted -it happened often- and the kid didn’t wait for him, but here he was: alone, scared and lost. He had tried to examine the streets to determine wich one he had to take, but none of them was familiar. He had panicked, his heartbeat drumming like mad, tears running down his face and wheezing, not breathing properly. He had screamed too. Screamed help again and again in hope someone would tell him where to go. But nobody was coming. The doors of the houses remained closed.
The teen, probably alarmed by the screams, were now in the end of the parc street, walking his way. When he saw them, his panick intensified. Alek though for sure they were gonna beat him and he would die right here and there. But upon seing his reaction, they just backed and went away, not wanting to scare him more. Not long after, his friend’s grandmother came in car to get him. He always felt responsible his mind drifted away.
Now, in this forest, he felt like that again. Like a little kid, lost in a suburb he didn’t know. The teens were replaced by unknown creatures and animals. The silent houses, by trees. But he was still the scared little child back then. And there was no grandmother to find him with her red car.
“Hey” A raspy voice came from behind and Alek jumped and looked. An old man was standing, five feet away from him. He was skinny, but his muscles were defined and his long grey hairs were put together in a ponytail.
“Where are ya coming from, boy? Y'not from here, that's for sure. Ma name's Alphonze. Ya?”
The teen hesitated to answer this stranger, being cautious, but the night was coming and he only wanted to go home. Maybe this man had no car, but he surely had a phone.
“Al- Alek. I'm lost.”
His tongue was dry, his mouth didn’t know how to prononce proper words. Putting down the basket he was holding, the man offered his hand and helped him get on his feet. Alek stared more at his features. Alphonse’s eyes were like almonds and the wrinkles on his face were attesting of his age. The reflections on his dark skin were accentuated by the few rays of light piercing the trees. Taking back his basket full of mushrooms and plants, he waved to Alek to follow him. Without a word, they walk into bushed and strode over a trunk. Soon enough, they were in a little trail. It would have been easy to miss it and it looked like more natural than human-made. Foliage was covering the ground, but a thin layer of dirt could been seen, looking like a snake.
“Ya from earth, Alek?”
The boy looked at him, confused. “Yes, of course I am, mister.”
Alphonze shrugged and kept walking. They could hear the faint noise of people chatting and children laughing. “Ya not on earth anymore, Alek. Ya on Éfelia.”
Alek stared at him, hesitating to stop. Maybe the man was on drugs. He saw many junkies in a part of the Vieux Québec. Begging for food, more drugs or screaming nonsense at the sky. Alphonze was wearing a loose shirt and some simple pants with laced base. Maybe he was homeless.
“Ya. Anather planet if you want. Ya here for a reason, son.” He waved his hand and motioned the exit of the forest. “Everything will be explained to ya but ya need to be taken care of. Didn't want these scratches to get infected.”
They passed through the trees and got to a tiny village. It looked like from another era, stopped in time. Children were playing tag and laughing as some adults were chatting here and there. A woman came quickly towards them. Unlike Alphonze, she was a little overweight and very short with big dark eyes. Looking like the kind of woman that gives you cookies and make sure you’re always warm and safe. She was holding her apron, walking like a little duckling. She smelled like lilas and soil.
“Alphonze, dear! Is that him?”
Alek found her voice to be nice and calming. Like honey.
”Ma'am! I'm... so relieved! Do you have a phone? Please? I... have to call my parents!”
She smiled fondly and crouched to his level.
”Oh poor Mijho. There is no such thing as that thing you call a phone here.”
She looked at Alphonze who was keeping in distance two curious little girls. “Alphonze, dear, go find Quiera would you?”
The man went away and the two kids immediately approached them.
“Who is it, Laura? His clothes looks strange” pointed the first one. A little girl with dark hair.
“Is he a terrian?” asked the second one.
Alek wanted to cry at the tough of not having access to a phone. Why was everyone so strange? Another kid went to see them. A boy, around nine years old with brown eyes and dark red hairs. Laura tried to hushed them away, but more children were coming asking more questions until an old woman made her way. She was little and Alek was sure that he never seen someone as old as she was. She has so much wrinkles, her skin looked like crumple paper. The little ones went quiet except the little boy from earlier.
“Quiera, Quiera! Is he a Terrian? Is he the third one? What are his powers?”
Quiera ignored him, only lifting up her hand to order him to get silent. He pinched his lips together and obeyed, looking like a pup.
“What is your name Mijho?”
Her voice was smooth and she had the same accent as everyone. One that Alek couldn't pin point. It's wasn't a latino one like his father's, or a French one. It wasn’t either the stereotype of the italian’s or english. He took a deep breath, trying not to cry.
”I just want to go home, please.”
“I'm afraid it's impossible.” She motioned him to follow her. “Come. Let's get this scratches treated and find some new clothes.” She waved away the kids with hand’s motion. “Children, go play and let this Mijho alone!”
The teen was too tired to protest and followed them. Surely, they would contact the police and he would get home. There was no way they would keep him there. The kids followed them as discretly as a child can be, and then, went separate ways, playing tag or something.
Quiera led him through the village. It was simple and the houses were mostly made of wood and rocks. Vegetations was everywhere and some children were playing in a patch of tall grass, along with a tiny puppy and a red cat. In the center, was a giant tree, its bark spiraling around the trunk. Kids were running around it with colorful fabric strips. Everyone was wearing the same types of clothes: fur and pelts, colored tissues or plain white fabrics. A lot of them didn't have shoes, but robust and calloused feet. Even children were running around barefoot without minding. For a second, he though he saw someone with pointy ear, but the woman disappeared behind a big tent. It was supported by planks and was around the size of a really big canadian house. People were walking inside and outside it. Beautiful patch of flowers were everywhere in the village. Climbing plant decorated some houses, garnementing wall and window's frame. He noticed a house, more into the forest, in the East side. She was triangle, plain and simple, deep in the ground. It's roof was made of wood, hidden by grass, flower and mushrooms. The interior was probably underground.
The small group climbed over an old wooden fence, eaten by moss and turquoise mushrooms. Tall grass was separating it from the woods, in which they walked for a minute or two. They got to a tiny home covered with plants and flowers and smoke was coming through a chimney. The front was made of round stones and what he could see of the side, a light wood. The roof was made of salmon tiles, contrasting with the grey blue of the chimney and rocks. The interior was simple: a cast iron wood burning stove in the corner was lit, cooking what looked like a soup. Beside the window, was a wood table and two chairs and in the far side of the room, was a bed with furs on it. On the wall, jars, boxes and fabric bags were standing on shelves as well as some more plants.
She motioned him to sit and got a clay bowl in which she poured some soup.
“You must be hungry, Mijho. Here.”
Alek's parent had always warned him not to accept food from strangers, but his stomach was pleading to be fed and his hands accepted the bowl. He hadn’t eat since noon, the forest not being very generous about what it offered. Quiera took a portion too and sat across him.
”My name is Quiera. I'm the shaman of this village.”
Alek blinked, trying to process what she had said. “Shaman? Like the natives?”
The woman nodded. 'I guess you could say that, yes. But not quite either”.
The teen took a sip of the soup. It was warm and he felt the liquid go way down. The taste was good, a little salt, some tomatoes, corn, carrots. He never felt so relieved to eat vegetables. He could feel the warmt passing in his throat and sitting in his belly. Alek closed his eyes, taking the time to appreciate it. He had never really felt hungry. Sure it had been some times were he had complained he wanted to eat, but never at this level. When his belly was inconfortable and his head was fuzzy. His parents always made sure he had all he needed. Not less, not more.
“You're not on the planet earth anymore. You were bring here to help our people. Help in the war. You're a Mijho.”
Alek froze and looked at her. The mouth full of soup, some sliding from it. He let the spoon fell in the bowl, not breaking eye contact. She didn't seem to be joking or to be on some kind of drugs. Maybe he had been found by a sect like the one his brother had warned him about. It was a month ago. They had watched a movie together, only the two of them. The movie wasn’t suited for their younger brothers. Alek didn’t recall the title, but it was bout a sect endroctrining young people. Alek didn’t really catch that much, but he didn’t want to look dumb to Eneas, so never ask. Eneas tho, had said there really was cults around the world, and to be careful. Later that week, they went to the city and passed in front of a well-known church. Eneas just stopped him and looked at it.
”You see” he had said. “This one, this is a sect. A popular one. Even celebrities go in it. But it’s still in plain view. Never go there. Ever.”
Alek saw the name of the church again when its people were distributing pamphlets in the streets of at schools’s exits.
There was a knock on the door and a boy around the same age as him entered. His right eye caught Alek’s attention: it was blind. A pastel blue, no pupil. Like the man decorating chocolate egg for Easter, in the mall. Alek was five years old, then. The man was sitting at a little selling table, in the entrence of the mall. Dark skin, one blind eye. He had beautifully decorated the egg and Alek always wished to see him again, but the stranger never reappeared.
A scar was crossing the new boy’s face, going across his nose. His hair were a total mess, but it had it’s charm. He lift his right hand at his temple and lowered it, palm up. The woman did the same and pointed at Alek before moving her hands. The teen didn't understand anything of what was being said, but understood they were using a sign language. He had see some in the news, but never in real life. The new coming waved to get Alek's attention and pointed at himself before signing slowly and spell out letters. Mouthing them to help him understand. O-L-I-V-E-R. He looked at Quiera, to confirm he understood right, and she nodded. Alek timidly waved, not knowing what to do as he had never encountered a deaf person before. Only seen some in TV show or in the news.
“Oliver will bring you to where you'll be living. There is a room for you.” Quiera turned and searched through a wooden box full of antic books.
“What?” The teen stood up, panicking. “No. I want to get home. You have to let me go! The police will find me!”
“Had they ever found the McFerrell twins? Or the little Seth? Or all the other children before them?”
Alek’s heart sank. He knew these names and the pieces got together. He was with the Organisation. Five. Nine. Twelve. Three soul vanishing at a time, every few decades, never to be seen again until their death. He was the third child. The floor scrambled under his feet and he put his hand on a wall to get his balance. He couldn't stay here. His family was probably worried, his mother, probably talking to a policeman, listing what he was wearing. And here he was, in a stranger house.
Shooking his head, Alek muttered “no... it’s not... I can’t...”. But the words got stuck in his throat, forming a mass.
Oliver was standing akwardly in the room, putting his weight on his left leg, then his right leg and again, his left. The old woman was still searching a book, her back facing him. Deciding to give it a go, he hurried as fast as he could to the door, opened it and ran in a straight line. Alek tripped on the fence, immediatly getting on his feet, not looking back. He didn't know where to go, but one thing was sure: he had to get out of here. The soup had gave him a little more energy and the fear was helping his legs. He rushed into someone and fell hard on the ground. A dark skinned muscular man with golden tattoos was standing here, not affected. His only clothes were a loincloth and sandals, all ornemented by golden jewelery and accessories. A beige and loose head scarf was resting on his head, long and dark golden brown hair was visible under it. Behind him, a dragon landed and Alek's beating heart kept rising. It was a huge beast, nothing like in the animated movies he liked so much. It's red scales were reflecting the sun, giving the illusion of fire. It's majestic wings hitting the air before closing on its back. Children laught and ran to met him, one transforming into a fawn, then into a human again. The man tried to help him get on his feet, but the teen shoved his hand away and rushed between people, almost tripping in the process. His eyes didn't had time to catch anything, only searching the fastest way to get out of there. His mind was trying to convince him that no dragon had been seen, that it had only been an hallucination. His tough were driving him crazy and he wanted to cry out of despair.
Back in the forest, he hid under a fallen tree and closed his eyes, hands on his ears and mentally counting again and again, trying to convince himself it was just a nightmare. The sleepiness was gaining him, but he didn't want to let himself drift off. The sound of the village could still be heard, and Alek didn't know what to do. In one side, he could go back and wish to get out of this situation in one way or another or he could walk in the forest and try to survive. But Alek knew he had no survival skill and the beast that tried to kill him could still be on his track. He lowered his hands, putting them between his knees and rocked back and forth. How could everything had turn so back so quickly. This morning, he had been with his family, had a wonderful time with his friends during the day and here he was, in the Organisation, in a world where dragons were real. Never had dragons been found on Earth and the hungry beast from earlier was nothing he had ever seen in any books or documentaries.
The night was coming and the air was becoming more cooler. Alek wished he had his vest. But nothing had been taken with him and he only had his torn clothes on him. He rubbed his arms and crisped his body. The red of his shirt looked more brown and his jeans were a mix of green, brown and dark blue. Grass, mud and soil obviously didn’t play in favor of the fabrica. Looking blindly at a sky he couldn't see through the trees, he wondered what to do. His mind was not in a good place, the despair keeping him from thinking straight. In the night, there still seemed to be a lot of sounds. Leaves brushing in the wind, little noctural animals running, an owl somewhere. Everything was making Alek flinch in fear. The chatting in the village has stopped. They would probably left him to die in the forest.
He heard a branch crack, then another and his body tensed. In the dark, he couldn't see anything more than shadows. The pacing was slow, but natural, reminding the teen of the walk of an horse. Alek wanted to cry, his body was shaking and he was suddenly wishing he could go back to the shaman and the deaf boy, probably sleeping by now. Blindly, he searched for something, anything, that could get him a chance to defend himself in case of need. His hand got grip of what felt like a rock and he held it close to him as if his live depended on it. A black silhouette could faintly be seen between the tree and after long stare, Alek detect that it was probably a deer. The animal, strangely, looked like he was searching something, his body was tensed, his head high, and his walk was slow and unsure. The teen lowered his hand and sight, looking from his hiding. The deer heard it and his head turned quickly. In such darkness, Alek couldn't see where he was looking, but could easily guess it was in his direction. Instead of going away, the animal started to move and became an indistinct shape. Like a shadow metamorphosing. The thought of another possibly deadly creature crossed the mind of Alek and he tighten his grip on the rock, preparing to run if needed. However, the silhouette quickly became a man's one. Certainly not an adult, but not a child either.
He didn't recognize the voice, but could tell it was a guy probably around his age. He didn't have any accent like the others from the village and hope raised again in the boy's heart. Stepping out of under the tree, he stand and hesitated. The stranger was obvious or where he was now and walked cautiously towards him.
“Are you Alek?”
“Yes.” His voice was low. He felt like he would start to cry at any moment. “I can't go anywhere uh? I... I have to stay here it's sure, sure?”
The other stayed silent for a moment, probably choosing his words.
“Yes.” He paused. “I'm Seth, by the way.”
Alek closed his eyes and let a sob go. “No. No, no, no, no...”
“Hey... It will be ok. Just follow me.”
They stood there, Alek crying and Seth waiting. There was no way he could escape this place. Either he was dying in the forest or he was going with them, maybe fight a war and then, he probably would die. In both cases, the chances of surviving seemed like impossible in his mind.
”I don't have a word to say in all that, uh?”
Seth nodded negatively. Taking a deep breath, trying to block the remaining sobs, he accepted to follow him, taking place at the boy’s side.
Seth led him to a clearing near some water that could be heard. An house was in the very back. It wasn't that big, but definitely bigger than a little shack and probably had more than only one bedroom. In the dark, Alek couldn't distinct that much, even with light coming from one of the windows. At the side, an old barn was standing with difficulty. The sound of water and crickets remembered him home and the though made him want to cry again. They climbed on the porch and Seth opened the door quietly.
”The girls are asleep I think."
He kept his voice low and mentioned him to enter. With the light, Alek could see a little more of what Seth looked like. He was also taller than Alek from at least one head. He remembered seing him in missing posters, fixing the board with the faces of dozen of children without remembering their features. He wondered what Seth’s parents looked like. His wavy hairs were blonds, but he wasn’t really white, a little tan, perhaps and his dark eyes -difficult to know wich color in the dark- were kinda monolid. Was Seth a metis just like him?
A girl stepped up when Seth was closing the door. “You found him!”
Seth turned at her and hushed her.
“Talk louder! Maybe you'll wake the entire Dragons Island!” he said sarcastically.
“Oh shut up GPS-Boy! Fanny is still awake! She's just reading a dumb book!”
Seth and her looked angrily at each other for a moment and Alek fixed the ground. If Fanny was the other girl, then she was Xalia. She was smaller and her pitch-black hairs were tied in ponytails. She was wearing a red dress in coton, ornemented by a black scarf at her waist. He tried to compare her to the posters or pictures in the news, but she didn’t have the missing tooth or the baby cheeks. However, she still had her big and round eyes and red cheeks. When she moved, she smelled like fire and he wondered how so. It didn't occurs to him why she had called him GPS-boy at first, but he then remembered the plan the Government tried when the McFerrells twins disappeared. Remembered the chips. Alek had no idea how she knew about that, maybe he told her. Embarassed by the bickering of the two, he looked around. In the dim light of a candle, he could see two door frames. One at his left leading to the kitchen. He could see the pantry and a counter. In the right, he saw a couch and a little table at the side. The floor was made of a light wood and the wall had been paint recently to a light color he couldn’t really discern.
Seth finally ask Alek to follow him and led him to the stairs, at the end of the hallway. On the second floor, he motioned to one of the closed doors.
”That's uh... that's your room. Mine's in front.”
Giving a last look at Xalia, Seth retreated to his bedroom. The girl stared at him and got out of the house, leaving him alone in the hall. He let a few second pass and then opened the door.
His room was simple, but still bigger than the one he had at home. Alek clenched his teeth. Is saying home was still the right thing to do
Everyone had been clear: there was no way he could go back to Earth, meaning that this place would become his new one. Stepping in the middle, he tried to find something to have some light, but electricity didn't seems to be a thing here. Like everything in this house, it’s smelled of wood. The breeze of the night added salt and grass into it.
Alek was hesitating between knocking at Seth's door or try to figured out how to light the room by himself.
He didn't, however, had to; a knock on the door frame got his attention. At first, he thought that it was Xalia, but realised he would have heard her coming back. When he turned, he faced Fanny. Alek knew it was her by the face. She had the same eyes, but she had left her hair fall loose behind her. Unlike her sister, who had been barefoot, she was wearing thin slippers.
“Hi. I'm Fanny.” Her eyebrows frowned and her hand were moving nervously. “Oh eh, yeah, you probably already know that. Like, you figured it out... I think?” Visibly embarrassed, she squinted her eyes and looked at him. “Eh yeah. Sorry for my sister anyway. She's nice, you'll see.”
She started rumbling about how Xalia and Seth were always bickering each others, but were still friends and that Xalia was just more accepting being here than Seth. Seeing the look of tiredness in Alek's face, she stopped herself and her eyes widen a little. “Oh Mrayn, I'm so sorry I talk too much.”
Alek assured her it was okay, but he couldn't stopped himself to thank this interruption mentally. He wasn't in the mood of a conversation and only wanted to know how to have some light. Fanny, like on cue, entered the bedroom and took a lamp.
“Here. I think you might want some light? You just have to turn this thing here and... yip!” A flame appeared and she put it back on the desk. “To close it, you just turn the thing the other way. Also... what can I told you other than that...” She seemed to think a moment and then approached a drawer. “There is clothes in that.”
They stood awkwardly and Fanny didn't seems to know how to react. Sighting, she seems to took all the courage she needed and sat on the desk.
”Listen...” She bit her lips, furrowed her eyebrows, trying to find what to say. “I know, my sister and me, we are here since we're like... five, but I know what is it to be here.” Her hands were fidgeting nervously and she looked at him, making sure that every of her words were getting listened to.
“It will not always be easy, but it will get better. Maybe, after the war, when we will win, you will find a way to get your family back. I know that Seth is trying to find a way to break the thing that make the war happen.”
She entered into another rambling, explaining some basis of the story of the planet. How the war was always coming back without explanation, how each times, humans were taken and given powers to fight in the war, being called the Mijho. Alek missed a lot of the information, not being in the mood and wanting to be alone. Fanny seemed to get the clues and finally wished him a good night, saying that he could take all the time he needed, that they were not going to force him to train right away.
That night, Alek let the lamp lit and went to bed with the same torn and dirty clothes. He didn't want to get rid of them: they were the only things he had from his now past life. He could hear the waves, crushing against rocks, not that far away and the night life of the forest. Alek felt like he couldn’t cry anymore. His throat was aching and his eyes were sensible due to the constant tears during the afternoon and the evening. Trying not to think about his family was hard, but when he was trying to thing about other subjects, Alek was realizing how much thing he was losing. No more movies, since televisions seemed like a dream here. No more video games, no more water park, no more visit to the toys store where he and his friend could joke around with the toys. They probably didn't have washing machine either so he had to find how he would clean his clothes.
The time was passing, but he had no way to know which hour it was and the very concept of watches was now almost obsessing. Before, he had an mp3, later an iVod that was indicating the hour, but now he had nothing. Staring at the ceiling, he wondered how was his family at the moment. Obviously, no movie night had taken place. His parents were probably worried sick and Eneas was maybe trying to reassure the twins.
How did his friends reacted? Looking at where he had fallen asleep only to find he was gone? Maybe they had though he was joking and didn't understand that he had been missing at first. Furthermore, how did he disappear was also another wonder. A flash of light or just a teleportation?
Needing to get some air, he got up and opened the window. The air, somewhat, conforted him. It smelled like summer. A breeze cooling him from the humid warmt of summer. Frogs croaking at the edge of a pool of water, probably. He hadn’t seen that much around. He saw the moons. Two of them. Different than the Earth’s one, like a painful reminder he was trapped in this strange world. It was quiet, serene and he liked that, even given the circumstances. Reminding him of camping trips, of marshmallows around a fire and nights sleeping with the windows open. He wished the day never comes. That the sun, would never light this world. Taking a deep breath, he went back to the bed and stared at the ceiling, light sightly by the lantern. Closing his eyes, he tried to imagine himself somewhere else. On Earth, with his family. No dragons, no powers. Only normality. His name was Alek and he was in his bed, in his house. Alek tried and tried to convince himself. He needed to convince himself. He liked the cold breeze washing his body, the odor of the night. The humidity was only pleasant during this time, when it was comforting. The saltiness of it, the grass, the soil. All these smells reminding him of a life behind him. These times were he couldn’t find sleep and just needed to wake up his father. They would go in the kitchen and do watercolor with the window opened. Or he could join Eneas, watching a movie or text Matthieu or Josh. Now, all he could do, was fixing the ceiling or closing his eyes.
Xalia came back at one point and went straight to her room. He didn’t got up to see her, listening to her steps, to her swear, when she tripped in the hallway, and then to the door closing.
That night, just before falling asleep, Alek could swear he heard his mom calling his voice and telling him that everything would be alright.