Issue #0 From There to Here

This entry is part 1 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 1: Welcome to Freeland House

Part 3

Melissa closed the door to her dorm room behind her and dropped her suitcase on the floor. It was far too cold outside for spring as far as she was concerned. Being back in her warm dorm room was a treat in and of itself.

The light was already on. Her roommate, Alexis must have already gotten back from holiday. Removing her jacket and tossing it on the back of her computer chair, Melissa walked over to the bathroom door.

“Alexis? It’s me. Just letting you know I’m back too, in case you heard the door open.” She said to the closed door.

There was no answer.

It was a little odd that Alexis would leave the light son if she wasn’t around. She probably just went down the hall for something. Melissa dismissed her missing roommate quickly as she went over and sat on her bed to take off her shoes. As she did so, the faintest flicker of movement caught her eye.

She looked up and saw only her own reflection in the mirror the closet door. Something wasn’t quite right about the reflection though. It seemed distorted, as if she was looking at the mirror through water. Something in Melissa’s head told her to run. Dropping the shoe she’d just taken off, she stood.

“Shit.” A voice came from the vicinity of the mirror. There was a click and pain blossomed in Melissa’s chest. She looked down to see a dart with a three inch needle protruding from it. The edges of her vision dimmed.

The redhead managed to run a few more steps to the door before her muscles betrayed her and she collapsed. Her last sensation before losing consciousness was of cold metal clamping her arms to her sides.

***

Melissa sat up in the wicker chair she had been sleeping in, her eyes bursting open and a gasp escaping her. Instinctively, her hand went to pull out the dart, but found nothing. It was just a dream, she realized. Sighing with relief, she looked at her surroundings.

She remembered the room now, as well as the events leading up to being there. Goose pimples ran up her arms as she recalled waking up in a stasis cell. They only got worse when she recalled who it was that had awakened her.

Her former roommate, Alexis was sprawled over the arm of one of the futons, snoring lightly. Alexis’s best friend, the excessively cheerful and smart black girl she even now mistakenly identified as Laura was curled up on the other side of the futon, an innocent smile on her face. The third of the trio that spend most of their spare time in Melissa and Alexis’s dorm room; Ian, had situated himself on the floor, head lolling back against the futon. He too was asleep.

People don’t change as much as they tend to think. Even in the span of a decade, the trio was instantly recognizable by the redhead.

Melissa shook her head. This wasn’t right. She had just seen them… a week ago? She suddenly remembered the date on a bank sign they passed earlier in the day; May 5, 2074. Somehow, over ten years had passed without her noticing.

Tears began to well up in her eyes. She hadn’t even lost those years, she’d simply not lived them; lying frozen in time while her friends grew up and life passed her by. She actually surprised herself in calling them her friends. Alexis and company certainly tried to include her, but Melissa less than politely turned them down each time.

She was just getting used to repressing her power (apart from her healing touch), and was having a hard time getting used to people being in genuine high spirits without the stimulating effect she impressed on people with her presence.

She was considering actually taking them up on their offers of friendship when… She began to cry again.

I don’t mean to intrude… a voice said, but why are you crying?

Melissa froze and looked around. No one in the room had stirred. Where had that voice come from?

You were crying earlier as well. The voice continued. Discovery of our situation was stressful, I will admit, but even as I am, I am not taking things as hard as you are.

“Who are you?” Melissa said in almost a whisper. “Where are you?”

My name is Kareem ibn Raimi al-Utt. I am currently standing in front of you, but I am currently projected onto the Astral Plane. My body is lying on the couch to your right.

Slowly, Melissa turned and looked at the person lying there. If he had been awake and standing, he would have been tall, dark and handsome in her opinion. As it stood, he was just richly tanned and pleasing to look at.

“That’s you?” She asked. “Then how are you talking to me?”

That is my body. Kareem said telepathically. He’d already been over his situation with Laurel and Alexis and feared that he would have to repeat that conversations verbatim to everyone at Freeland House. But I, like you, am gifted. My powers allow me to travel outside of my body, on the Astral Plane and communicate with people’s minds.

Melissa’s eyes widened. “You can read my mind?”

I can actually read much more than that—though I do my best not to intrude on people’s privacy, I can sense emotions, read memories and hear subconscious thoughts that you yourself are not aware of. Inexplicably, Melissa felt a hint of embarrassment from Kareem.

However, my abilities seem to be heightened now that my body is in a coma. I have been having trouble not delving very deeply when I speak to others telepathically.

“What have you gotten from me then?” Melissa asked.

You do not have to speak out loud. I can hear surface thoughts quite clearly.

Melissa frowned, and then concentrated. What have you gotten from me?, she asked again.

As I said, I do try not to delve to deeply… Kareem replied nervously; Please do not think that I am some kind of astral side voyeur because I am not.

Then tell me. Melissa demanded.

There was a sensation of shame from Kareem. I sensed your feeling of loss because of your time in stasis. I also sensed your disdain for your power. If you do not mind my asking; why is it that you disliked making people happy?

Melissa frowned. There was no way that the telepath could understand how it felt to never get an appropriate response to her problems. Her stimulant power had caused nothing but heartache since it had manifested.

I do believe I can understand, Miss Forrester. Kareem said; being able to hear exactly what everyone thinks of oneself is disconcerting to say the least.

I didn’t think that to you. Melissa replied suspiciously.

Oh my. I am sorry, Miss Forrester. You just thought it so strongly, I assumed…

I see what you mean about the problems telepathy can cause. Melissa said, trying to soften her mental tone. But really, its nothing compared to having your parents overcome with joy when you bring home all D’s, or having your first date break down into a laughing fit in the middle of a kiss. My power is definitely more trouble than it’s worth.

I can see how it can feel like a curse, but I can also see the silver linings. Kareem answered. And you do have your healing touch.

Melissa shrugged. Don’t remind me. I’m the only healer on record that can use my powers on other people without a blood transfusion. I’ve been poked, prodded and studied since I was ten because of it.

Miss Forrester, you make my usual optimism very difficult.

Alexis used to say the same thing to me. Melissa allowed herself a chuckle. I’ve always been more of a realist than an optimist.

The opposite of optimism is pessimism, not realism. Kareem pointed out.

Alexis said that too. I still say realism is close enough to being the opposite. She glanced over at Alexis and sighed. We may not have been friends, exactly, but we used to talk about everything.

Why can you not talk about everything now?

Look at us! Melissa shouted mentally. She’s lived a whole other life now. I bet she and Ian are married at this point. She’s not going to want to talk until two in the morning with a kid half her age.

Silence followed the next few moments and Melissa began to wonder if she’d chased Kareem away.

There are other people here our age. He eventually returned.

Melissa nodded. She tried her best to ignore them on the trip to Freeland House. The other girl referred to her as ‘crazy girl’ the entire time, despite repeated admonishments from Laurel, Alexis and the other boy. She had taken an immediate dislike for her.

If you do not like Miss McAllister, you could at least speak to Warrick. Kareem offered.

Why is it, Melissa asked, that you call him by his first name, but me and that other girl as ‘Miss’.

Kareem gave a mental shrug. It is just how I was raised. How would you like me to refer to you?

The thought brought a frown to Melissa’s face. For most of her life, she had been called ‘Missy’ by her aunts and grandparents. She certainly didn’t like that. Alexis and Ian called her ‘lissa almost exclusively. That had been only marginally more tolerable than Missy. For once, she wanted to be just ‘Melissa’.

Melissa it is, then. Kareem said before she had even fully completed the thought. Suddenly realizing his faux pas, Kareem sputtered. I am sorry. I did not mean…

It’s fine. I just have to get used to thinking about what I think in your direction, I guess.

Thank you for your understanding, Melissa. Kareem said.

Don’t mention it. She sent back. Looking over at the sleeping trio and then back to the spot she’d decided to focus on when ‘speaking’ to Kareem. I think I’m going to try going back to sleep now. It was nice meeting you.

You as well. Kareem said. On the astral plane, he moved away from her as she lay back down in the wicker chair.

***

On his side, the world was rose colored and vaguely translucent. People and other higher organisms were the only things that could be seen in true color and those colors didn’t directly correlate to their real world counterparts.

Kareem moved without taking steps, simply gliding through the room and eventually, passing through the doors themselves.

Just outside them was a hallway connecting the sun porch to the upstairs common room. There were doors on either side of it, each leading into one of the inn rooms. Kareem gave them a cursory glance as he floated past, but continued on to the commons.

There he found Warrick and Cynthia passed out on either end of the sofa with the TV still on. He gave them a smile as he floated up and out; onto the roof of Freeland House.

On the astral plane, neither clouds nor pollution marred the night sky, affording the young man an unfettered view of it. The starry panorama never failed to awe and inspire him. Even now, as his body lay useless below him, Kareem felt new hope. Unlike the others, he’d heard Alexis and Laurel discussing the future for the kids they rescued from the Academy.

This, he knew, would be home, at least for a while. And after touching the hearts and emotions of those who lived there, he felt that perhaps there was no better place for them in the world. He floated upwards a bit, to the extent he felt was safe for him to travel from his body and looked back at Freeland House.

In the real world, where time had stripped away decades of work by generations of previous owners as well as countless more years of memories it had played a part in creating, Freeland House was run down and looked barely livable.

But on the astral side, where belief is power and potential is made manifest; Freeland House was glorious.

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About Vaal

Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter.

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