A lot happened this morning, and now I’m stuck up in a tree. I think… I think I’ll write it all down verbatim so my emotions don’t end up spilling ink all over the page. But oh, how I wish this morning hadn’t happened.
But then again, it doesn’t seem like I have any control over this. Maybe I should just submit to a superiority complex, maybe lord it over Boney that I’m the Providence-
No. I can’t be. I don’t want anything to do with Miralay. I don’t want the responsibility; I don’t want the fear hovering over my head at all times. Miralay doesn’t care as much about normal Mirayalans as they would the Providences. And… I don’t want to put my friends and family in danger like that.
I’m not worth killing over.
I jolted out of bed to find that my room was empty. No doubt, Living Wasteland or whatever bullshit name she’d given me last night had wandered upstairs, where Mom had found her and where I was going to-
This yell came from a voice I didn’t know- a man? I gave my hair a few preliminary strokes, hopefully good enough to appease the hygiene police, and then headed upstairs to the living room. Living Wasteland was seated on a chair at one end of the room, and Mom at the other, and…
What was he doing here? He’d never been here before, except for when he was asking about Boney and his pendant.
Mr. Greenland approached me, extending his hand, probably expecting me to shake it. I didn’t, instead opting to shake my head in confusion and turn to Mom, much to his chagrin.
“Why did you call me?”
Mom gestured at Living Wasteland, who was fidgeting in her chair, her face downturned as she interlaced her fingers over and over again. “We need to talk.”
God, I hate those words. “We need to talk.” To be honest, diary, I wish people would just out and say what the issue was rather than beating around the bush. Do people do it on purpose? Get the other side full of fear so whatever self-defense they might have would suffer under nerves?
It’s awful, and I hate it, and I wish it would stop.
“I haven’t done anything!” I protested.
“You’re not in trouble… for now.” Mom turned to Mr. Greenland, stern. “Do you want to go first, or should I?”
Mr. Greenland turned to Living Wasteland, who’d given him her attention, and removed his hat. “Come here, child.”
Living Wasteland crossed her arms. Her eyes went distant. “I’m not a child. Address me properly or not at all.”
Mr. Greenland winced. “You certainly didn’t need a drill officer to pound Mirayalan arrogance into you.”
“And you didn’t need the internet to think you had the right to pry into everyone else’s lives,” she immediately shot back.
Mr. Greenland scoffed, thrown off-guard. “My own daughter-”
Mom sighed, looking my way. “Eponine, you’re the Providence.”
The room fell quiet. Living Wasteland and Mr. Greenland, on the edge of bickering, fell silent and slowly turned to face me. The silence was so thick, so oppressive, that Miralay might as well have come and hushed us up forever.
“I…” I squeaked out at last, trying to rationalize that maybe I’d misheard Mom, that I was imagining things. “I beg your pardon?”
“Eponine.” Mom put a hand on my shoulder. “You’re the Providence.”
Shocked, I stood there for a moment- and then burst out in laughter, massaging my forehead. “April Fool’s Day is a bit late, don’t you think? I’ve got no Providence dot- I’m not royal material- I’m not-”
“Eponine. I’m serious.”
I sobered immediately and shook my head. I could see Living Wasteland feeling her own forehead, about to discover that she was what I was not, what I couldn’t possibly be.
But I was seventeen and overdue for someone to shed their mind on me. If some other poor sap of a boy was the male Providence, then the news…
“No,” I whispered, feeling my breath begin to quicken. My head began to feel light- maybe all my blood would drain out and I’d be as pale as the moon. My hand returned to my forehead, fingertips searching the area between my eyebrows. “Where’s my dot?”
“The accident that happened when you were a baby?” Mom shook her head. “It never happened. We had the dot surgically removed. Claimed it was a cyst, and that’s what the results showed. I know I was irresponsible entrusting my infant son to an unethical black market surgeon, but… those were the only ones we could find.”
“But why would you remove it if we were coming-”
“Because now, in the eyes of Miralay, you’re damaged goods. That is, if they ever found out. I hoped- hoped you could live at least a somewhat normal life…”
Living Wasteland snapped out of her reverie and glared at Mr. Greenland. “I’m your daughter? And yet-” she stood up, her hands balled into fists- “you locked me away-”
Mr. Greenland closed his eyes. He genuinely looked like he wanted to die in that very moment.
“Yes. That was the best way I could think of it.” He opened one eye; she rushed at him, and he caught her neck under his arm to trap her. “I could have struck a deal with black market former Mordern employees and had you shrunk and entrusted to live in a friend’s Lego collection.”
“And I’m grateful you didn’t do that!” she squealed. “But- to think I could have been changing Miralay all this time… But of course you thought it best to keep me stranded as a semi-permanent resident of the internet. Were you going to keep me in there forever? Rotting away until I was senile and then upload my brain to continue my purgatory-”
Mr. Greenland squeezed just tight enough to get Living Wasteland to shut up. She released a muted whimper. Mom might have been sudden and quick with her words, but at least she hadn’t escalated to… whatever he had just said.
Living Wasteland feebly felt to her neck, prying away her father’s arm just enough to speak in a hoarse whisper. “I… I saw things. Tales of despair from Miralay runaways. Human rights violations galore. But… There was a beautiful-”
Her father squeezed tighter and then suddenly let his daughter crumple to the floor in a doozy, where she lay for a few moments with heaving breath. “Your mother sacrificed herself to ensure that you didn’t have to live life as a slave to Miralay. You can either choose to stay sheltered here in Heavestone, or you can go back in the sleeping pod.”
“No… No! You can’t-” She picked herself off of the floor, tossing hair out of her eyes. “I’m not going back in that damn thing.”
“Then you’re choosing freedom?”
“This isn’t freedom.” Living Wasteland pushed past him and threw open the front door. “I’m not spending my life as a spectator. I’ll see you in the stars where I belong.”
And she slammed the door shut.
I think I ran out after her a few seconds later. She hadn’t stumbled far- a lifetime stuck inside of a sleeping pod doesn’t really make for Olympics-worthy muscles. But when I approached her and pleaded with her to stay, to not give Miralay herself and possibly the rest of us in turn, she simply shook her head, spat out a few words of a language I’d only heard in snippets from my mom when growing up, and found some extra energy to keep running.
I climbed into the tree in my backyard, being that it’s nearly as high as my house. Hopefully I could keep watch on Living Wasteland from there, make sure she didn’t run through the gateway and into the Land of Shadows.
She’s still wandering a block away as I write this.