My name is Triss Pettigrew, and I am sixteen years old. I live in a remote Village south of nowhere, and close enough to the underworld that the clear pools closest to the mountains are as hot as boiled water. It is picturesque and to the eye, perfect. I couldn’t find anything as wrong about my environment than the fact that everyone that I have ever known has grown up the same way: silent, but not out of some defect that had stolen our voices but by necessity, by choice even. The spoken word is used so sparingly in my smallish township and used so rarely that it carves the event into your memory. When I was very young, I was sure that we were a community of mutes, living in a world of unheard noises that only I could hear. The first time my father spoke I was stunned.
I remember every word that my mother had said to me, and in great detail. It’s hard to forget as each was an admonishment, and in every instance. I wasted so much time vying for her approval and pride against those of my brother and father, that eventually I gave up making any efforts. Even when she lay dying amongst her trappings, I had no need to go to her bedside, not until my father came and told me that she asked for me. Her last words were a liberation and my heart leapt in glee when she finally whispered on her last breath, “Not your mother.” The old bitch was nearly pretty in that last fading light, such a gem of hope. She begged for my forgiveness; I wished her consecutive sentences in Purgatory for the years she made mine unbearable. I’m not cruel by nature but even the kindest souls have a limit.
I’ve softened the edges over time, the memories of the older barbs have grown smooth as river stones by my own design. The hurt becomes too heavy a burden to carry and the cuts from those edges never see to heal until they are faded. The ache is easier to live with once it’s been smoothed away; liveable recollections. Because of her my life was quiet as the grave, and I despise the constraints I am forced to exist in. Father speaks even less than Mother ever did, and ‘normally not even in the traditional sense of speech; he expresses his wants by the way he flicks his eyes or the set of his jaw, and you must use a certain amount of anticipation.
He actually used words this morning as he sat at the table, staring at the sunrise through the dewy windowpane. He appeared reflective and even happy. My brother, Errol, was smiling stupidly to himself over the bowl of porridge I’d made him, with his eyes far away and dancing. My big brother is in love. The poor thing. An event of a such an odd happening in a home of unhappiness, and yet Father seems amused, pleased, rather than annoyed. In a tone I am unaccustomed to, he chuckled and met my eyes with a smile, and patted my hand when I tried to remove his plate to wash. “Tris, go relax. I don’t need you today,” and he shooed me from the house with no tasks, chores or instruction. A free day just for me.
There are markets that overtake the streets in town, and I wander with my mind twisting and turning as I search desperately for a handle on this situation. As the only female, it’s been my lot to care for the men of the home always and before myself. I haven’t had a day to myself in my life and I feel so disconnected with nothing to do and all day to do it. Every living soul in Harrow Haven has been marked as to have knowledge of its Citizens, and then there is me. As the sole, un-Mapped, un-Marked being among the body, mind and soul connected sea of humanity I am mired in, I find I just don’t belong here. I’m so damned lonely and I wish I could say so.
Purchasing nothing, nor laying hand on anything either, my collectible data is kept to my footprints in the san. I simply observe; my eyes covertly searching faces for contact, a glance of acknowledgment or an unexpected expression but there’s nothing. There’s is no need, so the experts say, when every person you pass in a day has their bio cross referenced with yours. A discreet ding announces a match and if both parties are interested, they are Connected. In theory, I think as I watch the couples walking together, never touching, never speaking. How is that a connection? I wonder if it is worth it.
My childhood and subsequent adulthood certainly has been less than ideal and I am destined to live alone, such is the way with silence. But If i had my druthers, I’d choose to spend it looking the person I’d chosen to be mine, in the eye.
Something is in the air, affecting the human robots around me. I’m less noticed than normal, which is both a relief and a burden. No one likes to be completely invisible, however it’s a blessing when I see old Madame Blanchette eyeing her chicken coop with a thoughtful expression. Last time the old building nearly collapsed in my head. I’d rather avoid a repeat performance and consequently duck between the market and the barbers and into the forest shadows.
The trees are denser here, offering a small respite from the realities of my world and I breeze amongst the tiny wildflowers and dry leaves, clearing my head. The smallish petals in pink and purple are sweet as honey on my tongue; the fragrance heavy lilies are irresistible, and so I weave several into my hair. My shoulder blades are twin itches, suddenly my breath feels frosty in my mouth. It’s a strangely uncomfortable and sensual sensation that sends a shiver over my body that steals my air.
The word rings in my head, heavy like the funeral bells we are forced do listen to in the enforced classes we attend. More silence that breeds not education but hard feelings. I continue on my path, choosing not to respond. After all, perhaps I really am crazy, as I’ve heard from time to time in the kitchens.
I know you hear me. I can make you stop.
The shiver turns to chills when hands encircle my waist, holding me in place with no strength at all. Another like me. I hope he isn’t sanity-challenged, but truly don’t care. The relief of knowing I’m not alone in the world makes my knees weak. He can use me as bait as long as he is real, and as long as the rest of him is as warm as his arms. His breath tickles my ear with a whisper
I stiffen. and turn. I see that he smiles and it touches his eyes. Genuinely happy to see me. I don’t know what to say or where to look and so I just lift my knee and ram it in between his legs then run. He gasps and staggers, and he laughs and gives chase, pulling me tight against him. “Feisty. That hurt you know. Relax, Triss, You’re safe.”
Safe. I wonder about that. My insides are shaking, and I am still in his arms, straining to staring at his smile. Feelings I’d been taught to suppress under painful punishment surge in my guts, burning lower. I had yet to speak, old habits die hard. Today everything changes. In an instant, everything I know is no longer.
“There are others Triss. Do you want to meet them? You can speak, can’t you?” I nod, my hands pushing hard on my middle to smother the butterflies, “How do you know my name?” He smiles sheepishly, holding out a palm and waiting for my return greeting, “My name is Windsor. Win. You are on the Board. People we watch for signs of advanced thinking. Your brother is one of us.”
“My brother? Scott? No, you’re mistaken. He would never -” Win cuts me off with a shake of his head, “I have only one brother and I he would never keep your secret.”
“No, Triss, not Scott. Drew, your older brother. He is one of the original members, and he’s waiting. We should go now.” My Father had mentioned a Drew on occasion, in passing rarely and on nights where the chill forced us all to sip from Father’s prized whiskey bottle. I had assumed he was a dead friend.
“I have an older brother?” I can feel the smile growing wider in spite of my assurances to myself that I would find no pleasure in this situation. If it gets much wider the top of my head might fall off. Win nods and offers his hand, and gesturing towards the path ahead with the other. His hand is warm in mine and a comfort to my reeling thoughts. A random thought keeps bounce around my mind and with a lump of trepidation I ask, “Win? How old are you?”
To Be Continued….