Issue #3: Gather

This entry is part 4 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 1: Welcome to Freeland House

‘Time heals all wounds’ was something often said to people who were wounded; either in body or in spirit to trick them into unfounded optimism. The fact was, however, that time passing was the exact source of Melissa’s ‘wound’.

A decade could change a great deal about the world and that was difficult enough to accept for people that lived through the gradual slide into the new status quo. But Melissa had literally slipped into unconsciousness one moment and awakened ten years later. She hadn’t even aged.

Before she had been placed in stasis, the country had been at war in Brazil, headbands and goggles had been the newest fashion trend and the papers had been abuzz about construction beginning on a permanent human habitation in space. She had awakened into a world where Brazil was called a ‘trusted ally’ in the papers and bleached white jeans were hip. The lunar habitat was still a hopeless pipedream though. She didn’t know why that made her feel a tiny bit better, but it did.

The world just felt wrong to her. It didn’t help that she hadn’t changed while the world did. She was a sixteen year old with the tastes and memories of a twenty-five year old. Laurel had suggested she spend more time with ‘people her age’, meaning Warrick and Cyn. But Melissa knew in her heart that she was, in reality almost twice their age.

Laurel was only trying to help, but she was completely wrong. Laurel was always trying to help, it was her creed; when in doubt, try to help someone out. A wonderful strategy in fantasy based gaming, but Melissa found it annoying in real life – especially since it seemed to work. It seemed ironic to Melissa that Laurel could do more for people’s moods with her personality than could do with powers that did specifically that.

Not that Melissa liked her power. In fact, she hated it. It was wholly useless and worked seemingly on its own volition. On top of that, she had developed the ability to heal everyone but herself. Time heals all wounds, so did Melissa’s powers. But neither could heal her wounds.

***

A knock on her door interrupted Melissa’s thoughts as she lay on her bed, a pillow covering her eyes. She imagined that if she ignored the knocking, the one responsible for it would lose interest and leave. The only person she cared to talk to at Freeland House was Kareem and for the past week, he had spent most of his time with Laurel working on some project or other.

The knocking didn’t cease. It only became louder. Melissa pressed the pillow over her ears and pretended it wasn’t happening. There was a clicking sound and suddenly the door flew open, accompanied by the cool breeze of Freeland House’s recently installed air conditioning.

“Up and at ‘em Princess of Pout!” Cyn’s voice said as the clunk of heavy boots approached. “I come bearing gifts.”

Every Friday, Melissa thought, this was becoming a ritual. Cynthia – Cyn, actually, now that she’d finally convinced everyone to refer to her as such – barged into Melissa’s room every Friday afternoon, demanding she take part in whatever thing she and Warrick had planned. Last week had been a ‘battle of the bands’ at a local café in the Hills.

“I don’t want to go anywhere with you two.” Melissa groaned.

“Yeah, I get that.” Cyn said, brushing it off. “You hate us because you’re technically older than us or something. Fine. Be that way. I’m not going to just give up because of a little thing like you despising me.”

There was a sinking feeling in the pit of Melissa’s stomach. She didn’t hate Cyn or Warrick anymore than she’d hated Alexis, Ian and Laurel back when those three tried to get her involved in their lives. She just wasn’t a people person. But voicing that notion would simply encourage Cyn’s attempts to force her into being personable, so she held her tongue.

The bed shifted as Cyn perched herself on it. “Of course, this time, you won’t have us to put up with. For your information, we’re going to the Darkcore concert.”

Against her better judgment, Melissa emerged from beneath the pillow. “You two are going to a concert together? Like a date?”

Cyn snorted. “Yeah right. No offense to him; but Warrick’s not my idea of a guy.”

“You mean, ‘ideal guy’?”

“No.” Cyn shook her head. “I mean, when I think of, you know a guy – a real guy, I’m thinking somewhere around 6’2’’, some muscles, maybe without so many geek-outs as our boy has, you know what I’m saying?”

“Please, you two are joined at the hip half the time. I don’t think either of you has gone to town alone since Ian and Alexis came back talking about this whole tomb thing.”

“Tome.” Cyn said shortly. Mentally, she forced her muscles not to allow her to shiver at the idea of what the Academy and whatever Project Tome was were up to with their trepanning and whatever a ‘bio-map’ was. The fact that Laurel still didn’t know what the damn thing was made her uncomfortable having it in the house. That was part of why she spent so much time out of the house lately; Prelate work as Facsimile not withstanding.

“Yeah, Tome.” Melissa said not bothering to hide her fearful reaction. “Anyway, if you two are going on a date, what does that have to do with me?” Until that moment, she hadn’t noticed the flier in Cyn’s hand. It was now presented forcefully to her.

Below the word GATHER in large, bold letters, intertwined with generic clip art of confetti and dancing couples, was the following:

Find your true happiness with likeminded individuals. Come to Brother Wright’s Gather and meet people who wish to be happy like you. Free refreshments and a night of socializing and dancing. Happiness is yours; simply reach out for it.

9pm Friday, June 8, ConquesTech Convention Center Annex

“I just figured that you’d benefit from actually getting off the grounds once in a while. You know, talking to people.” Cyn said, letting the flier drop onto Melissa’s chest.

“I talk to Kareem.” Melissa pouted, retreating back under the pillow.

“Technically, you think to Kareem.” Cyn said. “Though with that thing Laurel’s working on will let you.”

“Still, I do… communicate with him.” Melissa said. “That counts for something.”

“I won’t argue that.” Cyn shrugged. “Kareem’s a nice guy. However, he’s not a replacement for the entire rest of the world, no matter how great a guy he is. You need to get out and make friends.”

“Oh, like you have.” came the reply.

“Actually, yeah.” Cyn nodded. “there’s a really cool group of people that hang out at the Dungeon – you know that arcade on Sixth Street that’s connected to the café? The one we tried to get you to come to the battle of the bands with? Actually, our friend Kay is in one of the bands, she does keyboards—“

“Okay, okay.” Melissa sighed. “You’ve made your point. I’ll go to this Gather thing. It sounds lame though… ‘true happiness’, yeah, right.”

“Don’t knock it. I’ve seen this guy on TV. I heard Miranda Elliot – that talk show chick? She swears by his books.”

“Oh, that removes all my doubts.” Melissa rolled her eyes.

***

Warrick mugged for the mirror as he combed his hair. “So, how’s the deal with Ms. Brant’s astral plane TV thing coming?” he asked the ether. He’d never gotten the hang of speaking mentally to Kareem, so he just talked conversationally in whatever direction he happened to be facing.

There are, as Ms. Brant says, ‘many, little spiders’ to shake out. Kareem explained, from somewhere in the vicinity of the window. Most of it is simply learning to control the device from the astral side. On this side, the world is all emotion and memory. It is hard to translate it to the device.

Warrick nodded, not really understanding, as one of the tentacles handed him a can of hairspray. “I bet you can’t wait to talk to us… you know, face to face?” He gave his hair a few spritzes and handed the can back to the tentacle, who dutifully returned it to its shelf. “Not that I mind talking like this, but I know the whole mind reading thing is a problem for you.”

Yes, I will be very happy not to have to read minds to hold conversations. I do not like the idea of invading the privacy of others for any reason, even something so vital.

“I hear that.” Warrick said. “I’ve had to keep these two from pointing their… whatever tentacles have instead of noses – into other people’s business. Or at least not telling me when they do.”

I didn’t know they spoke to you.

“Not in the normal way. Or telepathically either. I just… know what they mean when they want me to, you understand?”

Very much so. I can understand memories on this plane in much the same way.

“At least I don’t feel so weird anymore.” Warrick grinned. “So how do I look?” He was wearing a Darkcore T-shirt under a leather vest and black jeans. He had just spent the last twenty minutes shaping his hair into an impossible forest of spikes which protruded in all directions.

It depends. Kareem began diplomatically. Are you attempting to look as if you are seeking a fight?

“That’s what surge metal’s all about, my friend.” Warrick grinned. The tentacles deformed their tapered ends into reasonable facsimiles of hands; the index and little finger extended while the middle and ring fingers were held down by the thumb – the universal sign of metal being expressed in its purest form.

Mentally, Kareem laughed. You certainly would be one to know, Warrick.

“I’m just sorry they won’t get to listen to the concert. I’ve got to un-summon them out on the town and all.” Warrick frowned.

The door opened without so much as a knock and Cyn clomped in, wearing a dress that was essentially the same heavy black fabric wrapped around her chest all the way down to her knees. A chain belt somehow caused the whole assemblage to stay in place. Elbow length black gloves with studs sewn into the knuckles completed the ensemble.

Warrick found himself suddenly interested in the ceiling as he caught himself goggling.

“Great news!” Cyn announced, her amusement at Warrick’s predicament obvious. “I got Princess Pouty to go to that Gather thing – reluctantly of course.”

“Er, that’s great.” Warrick said, looking at anything but Cyn, which at the moment his own hands.

Gather? What is that? Kareem asked, making his presence known. On the astral plane, the air practically cracked with Warrick’s embarrassment.

“Some little get together thrown but some pop psychologist or something.” Melissa said, speaking out loud for Warrick’s benefit. She’d become adept at switching back and forth between thoughts and spoken words when Kareem was involved. “The important thing is that our little girl is finally leaving the nest.” She shifted a few tears into existence so as to properly sniff dramatically.

That is good to hear. I enjoy her company, but she is better off socializing with people… Kareem’s thoughts trialed off.

“Its nothing about you, Kareem.” Cyn quickly explained. “Its just she’s anti-social to everyone BUT you.”

I know this. I just wish I could do the same.

“Hey, man,” Warrick said, still looking elsewhere, “you’ve got a certified super genius on the case. Ms. Brant will figure something out. And then, Mr. Smythe and Ms. Keyes will kick the crap out of whoever did this to you – just like they did for those kids in Florida.”

Cyn laughed lightly. “And we can’t do fight crime because ‘it will draw too much attention’.” She gestured to the door. “Anyway, our cab will be here any minute, so we’d better get moving. See ya later, Kareem.”

The pair headed off, leaving Kareem floating alone in the Astral plane.

With very little effort, he moved through the walls and down the hall to Laurel’s lab. The genius level psionic was at her computer, no doubt cracking her way into another medical database on the trail of the enigmatic ‘bio-map’. The device she had made for Kareem was on one of the worktables, parts of its interface glowing electric blue on the astral side.

Kareem approached it and reach out tentatively toward the interface. It was a small thing, being able to communicate face to face. But it was a first step. A vital first step.

Series Navigation<< Issue #2 The KinIssue #4: Juniper >>

About Vaal

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

You can also purchase his books from all major platforms from the bookstore

Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed

  • Descendants Serial is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.