Eponine’s diary, 5/15/2147, second page

Alright, diary. I’m back from dinner; it was quesadillas made with our family’s broken quesadilla maker machine. The plastic latch broke quite a long time ago, so now everyone has to hold down the lid while it’s cooking until the green light goes off.

It’s an inconvenience, sure, but I’ve gone through worse in my life.

So Boney and I were staring down at a tunnel in the corner of an abandoned dollar store a few streets away from the power lines that denote the passageway into Heavestone. Boney had one hand over his mouth, trying to filter out the awful smells coming from the building around him. But the air wafting up at us out of the tunnel-

It smelled fresh.

Clean.

And not at all like a badly written horror story.

“Do you wanna go in first, or should I?” Boney whispered.

“I guess I will,” I volunteered, swinging down into the tunnel. The handholds were surprisingly dry- I don’t know what I was expecting. Radioactive green goo? Poop from cave bats? Some acidic substance meant to dissolve me into a pile of bones?

I reached the bottom, not daring to turn around until Boney was down there with me. “Come on down!”

“Is it safe?” he yelled back.

I turned around. It was too dim for me to see anything past a few feet, but something blue faintly glowed in the distance.

“Probably not,” I whispered.

“Cool. I’m in.” Boney dropped down on top of me, catching my shoulder and crumpling both of us to the floor. He brushed himself off as he slid off my body and stood up. “Sorry.”

I got up on my shaky knees and rubbed my eyes. The glow had become stronger. “So?”

“So what?”

“Come on. Let’s go. Unless you’re too chicken?”

Boney took my hand and raced forward. I suppose that was our first mistake. A wave crashed over us- a wave of nonsense in our brains, white noise smothering us like a disciplining hand come to smack us into submission. And smack it did; I felt myself crumple to the floor, brain clattering in my head as the right side of my jaw screamed. My limbs went limp, all tingling like I’d been sitting on them for far too long. The ground rumbled beneath me.

And the scream- oh, god, the scream. Like someone had recorded a cheap Halloween soundtrack and coded it into eight bits. My ears shuddered; my mouth went limp; red streaks began to go across my vision…

What I wouldn’t pay to never have to hear that scream ever again.

And then it was all over.

What- what was that, diary? I don’t have epilepsy. Maybe-

No, I’ll tell you about that later.

Trembling, Boney and I picked ourselves off the ground and faced what had appeared in front of us. A pill-shaped pod, about large enough to contain a human body. The top was clear, although it had fogged up considerably.

“Who do you suppose is inside?” Boney whispered, touching a hand to the pod- and immediately withdrawing it, the fog having come off on his hand. A hand-shaped part of the glass had cleared, betraying a glimpse into the inside. Boney didn’t dare look in yet, although he knocked lightly on the glass. “Maybe they’re dead?”

I shook my head. “Nah. No point in using… whatever this is to store a dead body.” The pendant underneath my shirt grew cold as I wiped off the top of the pod and peered inside.

There was a girl about my age, serene and sleeping. Unkempt red hair, pallid skin, dark circles underneath her eyes. But her fingernails looked recently trimmed, and she was wearing clothes her size.

Somebody had to have been looking after this girl.

But how long had she been there?

And then I noticed something-

“A Miralayan, from the looks of it,” Boney whispered, leaning in closer to the glass separating us from her. “Hey!” He tapped the glass. “The Providence dot. What’s the female Providence doing here?”

My stomach lurched at the mention of the Providence. “I don’t think we should be here.”

“Why not?”

“This could all be a trap- Mordern could be looking for us, Boney! Us, and everybody else in Heavestone…”

“But the Providence, Pony!” Boney paused, tearing himself away from the pod, thinking. “You know, maybe you’re right. But get plenty of pictures of this place just in case we decide to tell anyone in Heavestone.” He shivered. “The Providence…”

“Yeah, I get it.” I whipped out my phone and prepared the camera, which liked to go blurry at inopportune times. “Or maybe it’s just a drawn-on dot and a damn good makeup job and she’s an Earthen druggie trying to earn herself a one-way ticket to Mars.”

I snapped fifteen photos, some of them of the surroundings, some of them of the girl inside the sleeping pod. One of them was Boney sneezing.

Boney retrieved a water bottle from the backpack and took a long swig, handing the rest to me to finish off. He shoved the empty bottle in his backpack and whispered, “Come on, let’s go.”

And I stashed my phone in my pocket and climbed up the ladder with him.

It was raining by the time we got out of the dollar store. Boney deployed his umbrella, and we strolled back to the power lines, the wasteland beyond transforming into the borders of Heavestone right before our eyes. Boney escorted me home. Mom was still cooking when I stumbled inside, shivering.

“Eponine! You’re back!” She grinned, her face glowing with a soft love. “Have any wild parties?”

I shook my head. I wasn’t ready to tell Mom about the girl yet. She’d probably stir up a furor and rally half of the neighborhood to go find the girl- and even though the police can probably overlook two boys exploring an abandoned building, fifty people trying to all fit in probably wouldn’t go over so easily.

Although we’d need to tell someone eventually, because if that girl really was Miralayan, she belonged in Heavestone with the rest of us hiding from Mordern.

I… I’m not feeling well. I’ll see you tomorrow, diary.

Eponine’s diary, 5/15/2147

I haven’t opened my bedroom window in six months. Not because it had been stuck or anything- Heavestone is either sweltering hot or bitterly chilly, and I quite like the relative stasis of my room. Six months ago, I was mucking around with a science project and accidentally set it on fire, so I had to brave the winds of winter and an exasperated mother in order to clear out all the smoke.

Of course, I took the opportunity to tell my friends that my mixtape had done it, but being that I don’t actually have a mixtape, they saw right through me.

I went outside Heavestone today. To whoever might find this diary (which I just got today), I know that taking a step outside of your city might not be such a big deal- but it is to me. You see, Heavestone is different than most other cities.

It doesn’t actually exist.

Mom explained it to me when I was little like this- like Heavestone was a snow globe, self-contained with nothing going in or out. Obviously, that was a lie, because if that were true, then how did I get here? How did Old Man Jenkins or my friend Boney or Mr. Greenland get here?

Mr. Greenland showed up one day about six or seven years ago, and that was long after Mom told me about the snow globe. So obviously that theory was out.

Heavestone, from my tests, seems to be stuck in a loop of time. I can go in and out as I please as long as I have the pendant my mother gave me. It’s a weird technicality I don’t really understand. And there’s a neighborhood right outside where I usually pass through the border- I call it the “Land of Shadows”. Not to be edgy or anything, but because the first time I ever went through with my mother, all it did was rain and be dreary. And the name stuck.

Today, I passed through with Boney, my friend. My only friend, to be exact. I’m not the most sociable of creatures. There were a few kids milling about outside on the basketball court, which is almost always the first thing I see after I pass through. The streets were empty, and we walked for a few minutes before being accosted by this man in a trench coat. It played out almost like in a bad gangster movie- the two suburban kids being asked where they were from, what they were up to. One of them being intimidated, the other urging the frozen kid to flee, and flee we did, out to the lake a short distance from there.

The man didn’t follow.

To be honest, I got this diary as a relaxant. I don’t have to worry about being such a dweeb in real life if I can simply write myself as the hero of every situation.

But, to be honest again, I was the kid who got intimidated. Please, if you’re reading this, don’t tell Mom.

We stopped at the lake to rest. It was more of a pond, really, a man-made hole about the size of three houses squished up against each other. The only life I’ve ever seen in it are ducks flitting there in the warmer months and kids braving the easily cracked ice in the colder months.

The Land of Shadows doesn’t have winter, I’ve noticed.

“Hey, Eponine,” I remember Boney saying. “You got any more of that music library transferred over? My internet’s been crapping out recently. I’m getting kind of scared.”

“Not everything,” I replied, tossing a rock into the water as we sat a few feet from the murky shores. “A few discographies. My main concern is running out of disk space.”

“Not everything has to have a redundant copy, you know.”

“But still…”

Boney tends to use me as his personal pirate. But that’s a story for later.

We got up and moving as soon as the tornado siren started blaring. It always does that on Saturdays in the afternoon, I’ve noticed. I would have thought that maybe once a month would be fine enough for the people living in the Land of Shadows, but maybe they just like to live in fear of tornadoes coming.

I’ve never seen an actual tornado with my own eyes.

A short distance from the lake was an abandoned dollar store sandwiched in between a daycare and a dentist’s office I’ve never seen anybody go in. I slipped the key to the front door out from under the mat, grimacing as I wiped the grime and dirt off my fingers, and unlocked the door. No alarms sounded; we’d already disabled all of them a long time ago.

Sometimes I wonder why nobody ever bothered to buy this property after the dollar store went under.

The shelves were long since emptied, just wire racks standing in solitude, ghosts of former days, bolted down to the ground to keep them from having another try at life somewhere else. Rack purgatory, I imagined, if purgatory were a rancid-smelling building with no lighting and probably some sort of childish monster lurking in the bathrooms.

“Hey, over here,” Boney whispered, his fingernails scraping against one of the floor tiles. “I need some help over here.”

I went over and helped him peel off the aging tile, flinging it aside, and- you know, diary, maybe I’ve been casted into a B-rated horror film. I’m about 99% sure that dollar stores don’t have secret tunnels leading into an unknown basement.

Uh oh- I’ve got to go- it’s dinner time now-

summer vacation, day 1

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It is now the first day of summer vacation, and yet I still feel like there is a weight on my shoulders- like it hasn’t yet sunk in that there isn’t a pop quiz in AP Lit ready to spring at me and ruin my grades further or that a few certain people at school no longer have the opportunity to startle and aggravate me for their own entertainment or that I won’t have to wake up in self-hating despair at six in the morning anymore.

Prairie Flower is in a week. That’s also when the seniors have their graduation ceremony, and also when I was supposed to perform with the rest of the band- but my band teacher said not to worry about making it up if I couldn’t go. That makes two pieces of music I guess I’ll have to remember to return on the first day of school.

If I survive that long. Which I probably will, but you never know. Maybe I’ll decide to go into journalism, get a job at a repair shop as a stepping stone into sysadmin-hood, and be coerced by a nihilist rogue into running away to a commune. And then I’ll have to explain to fully-grown adults that violence only antagonizes people, which will result in someone actively planning my assassination and my brother intervening to bring me and the ethereal man-child who followed me out of the commune to safety.

And then I’ll hide for a while before being killed anyway, which will almost trigger a war.

Sometimes I feel bad for Vey and the rewrite I’m forcing her to go through. And sometimes I reconsider my life decisions.