My father’s room remains quiet as I slip out of my bedroom and close the door behind me. The rest of the house is a cacophony of noise- electronics quietly hum as they execute their jobs, the air system shimmers like fairies are running through it, and the vents growl.
I tiptoe my way down to the office. My heart leaps as the green glow of the status lights on the computer greet me, and then a pang of guilt- why am I so happy to return to my purgatory?
No. This is different because I have a white nightgown brushing against my ankles and I’m sweating and I can hear my breathing loud and clear, even as I slide onto the chair and wiggle the mouse to wake it up. The screen is a physical thing I can touch, and I’m not limited by the speed I can think but how fast my fingers can fly across the keyboard.
They can’t move fast enough.
Mordern’s home page sits in front of me, too professional for comfort. Sterile and clean with sharp edges I might cut myself on. But there is a support link, and I click it, immediately coming face to face with a myriad of phone numbers for all the things Mordern does: tech support, business requests, press interviews.
Miralay inquiries. That’s the one I want.
My father’s landline is right next to the computer on the desk. My hands tremble as I reach for the mouthpiece, paranoid that the mere press of a button will wake my father and get me thrown back into the sleeping pod. I press it against my ear- just a faint hum, even when I begin pressing buttons.
The ringing is as loud as gunshots, but still my father does not stir upstairs.
“Welcome to the Miralay inquiries hotline,” a chipper woman says on the other end of the call. “How may I help you?”
My throat closes. I forget how to speak for a few full seconds, mind racing with a million things I could say, until the woman clears her throat and I’m pulled back to reality.
“I’m the Providence.”
I can feel the caller lady thrown off-guard, her surprise thick and heavy across the line. “Is this a prank?”
“No!” I messed up, I messed up, I messed up- “I’m Living Wasteland, but my father calls me Serlis, and I’ve got a dot on my forehead, and I might be developing weird powers, and I was kept in a sleeping pod for seventeen years, and my mom died so my father and I could escape, but I need to get back to Miralay so Mordern will be appeased and won’t go looking for any more escaped Miralayans.”
Thick silence between the two of us, and then she speaks. “I’ll check the birth records.”
“Please don’t tell my father,” I whisper almost reflexively. “If he finds out, he’ll lock me up in that sleeping pod again for the rest of my life.”
“I won’t tell,” she promises, and then the elevator music comes on.
I startle awake. The phone is in my lap- I hold it back up to my ear. “Hello?”
“Is this the same girl who was claiming to be the Providence?”
My voice shakes, but I manage to get out the words, “That would be me.”
What am I doing? Why am I doing this? Dad is going to kill me-
“Hello, Serlis. I’m Amelia Rouge, second-in-command at Miralay Colony. I’m on Earth right now on official business.” A shuffling noise, probably papers. “So you claim to be the Providence.”
“Can you call me Liv?”
“I don’t like the name Serlis.”
“Your supposed birth records on Miralay display your name as Serlis, so that’s what I’m going to address you by. Does your computer have a webcam?”
I quickly check the desk. Sure enough, a camera sits on top of the monitor, its glassy lens watching me like a hawk. “Yeah.”
“Make sure it’s turned on and go to Mordern’s support page. There should be a chat link. Enter in your name and I’ll make sure the request gets sent to me.”
Her instructions are easy enough. A blank square appears on the monitor- I’m such an idiot, thinking I could work a webcam in the dark. I drop the phone in my lap and fumble around the desk until my fingers slip on a lamp switch- and the sudden light burns makes me flinch away just as the woman’s face comes into view.
I cover my eyes with my fingers, allowing myself a sliver to look through, and peek at her. Red hair and a slim face and stern eyes. She looks so much like me, but she can’t be my mother because my mother died to get me here only for me to be entombed alive.
Would Mother have made Father raise me normally?
Her eyes widen. Her mouth forms a perfect O before she covers it up with her hands. She’s staring at my forehead, at the red dot. I know it.
“You look so much like your mother,” she says at long last, struggling to regain her military-like composure. Her voice comes through the phone, although I can’t see it on her end. She takes a deep breath and sits up straight, a gesture that I unwillingly mirror. “My Providence. It will be an honor to take you home.”
It sounds so simple when she puts it that way, like I’d just be moving to a different state instead of a whole different planet.
My hands fall down to my sides. I try to keep my face blank. “When are you picking me up?”
“Anytime in the next two weeks. I take it your location is…” Her eyes shift to the side for a moment, looking at something off-screen. “The unused lot near Rotary Park. Your location must be off by a few miles. Is that within a safe distance?”
I nod my head, willing myself not to sweat, wondering if maybe she can sense my thoughts through the screen. The park is too close to Heavestone for comfort. It’ll have to do. I don’t know where anything else is.
“Report to Rotary Park in two hours. I’ll escort you to my lodging and we’ll decide on a plan of action from there.”
This is it. This is my chance to tell her about Eponine. I open my mouth-
“There’s another one.”
Amelia Rouge perks up. “I beg your pardon?”
“I know where the other Providence is. He lives close to me.”
Heat floods my face. Stupid! Stupid girl, thinking you can make choices that important for other people!
I’m the Providence. This is my job. This is for the good of Miralay.
“Bring him as well,” Amelia Rouge adds, and then the image fades.
I close down the computer and phone and turn off the lamp and slink back to my room, pondering for a moment what I’ve just done. My hands shake, and then they suddenly pull me to my window, unlocking the window as if I had done it a million times and pulling me onto the dewy lawn. It is chilly and damp and my face is full of dirt as I become a marionette for some invisible master and amble across the backyard to the road.
Eponine’s house is just a few streets away.
Eponine, future unwilling Providence of Miralay, will hate my guts if he doesn’t already. But in a land where I can expect everyone to love me, I suppose I could use someone to be the opposite.