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.
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?”
“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.”
“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.