One Entwined and A Remarkable Gift

Two interesting things happened today. By "interesting," I mean out of the ordinary routine from what is usual here in the caverns. Luckily neither incidence was life-threatening, as has been almost normal for "interesting" events in my life lately.

The first came during our morning practice session. Miss Means was just telling me that I was still pulling too hard, as she put it, when trying to build the stick house with my group members when there was a commotion from the other side of the room. The already-shaky foundation of our house collapsed as all four of us lost our concentration on our Gift and looked away. A boy was screaming and a crowd had gathered around him. Wide-eyed, Miss Means rushed toward him, and I saw Mr. Jenkins hurrying over from another side of the room. Slowly, everyone was drifting toward the boy, who was obviously in pain. I heard murmurs, but could not tell what anyone was saying.

"Patrick!" Miss Means shouted, pushing her way through the crowd.

From the other side, Mr. Jenkins was yelling the boy's name as well. "Pat!" I was used to having to fight for my view, growing up with so many other girls at Saint Anne's, so I managed to slip between shoulders and hips and elbows until I was on the inside edge of the ring of onlookers. "Come on, it's all right, it was an accident," Mr. Jenkins said. "You've got to let go now. Let Oliver go." It seemed they were not talking to the boy who was screaming, but another boy who was pale and trembling, standing near the other boy and staring at him as though entranced. The boy named Oliver was wrapped tightly with the rope we had all been using for practice; I could see it cutting into his wrists and leaving red burn marks. He was trapped, from his ankles to his shoulders. "Pat." Mr. Jenkins shook the young man's shoulders. He had longish brown hair and his clothes, though they were the same school uniform that all the other boys wore, looked somewhat shabbier.

"Patrick!" Miss Means patted his cheek hard, then drew her arm back and slapped his face! Finally he blinked and looked up at her. "Patrick, stop this now." She pointed at the screaming boy. "Let him go."

He stared at Oliver for a moment, then took a deep breath. As he exhaled, the ropes slackened and fell to the ground. Panting and wild-eyed, Oliver stepped out of the coil. Mr. Jenkins caught him just as he lost his legs and would've crumpled to the floor.

"This way," Miss Means told Patrick, putting an arm around his shoulders. Despite her violence a moment ago, she looked nothing but kind and caring now as she led him into the kitchen, the only place they could be alone without going into one of the "dormitory" rooms.

Gradually, the other students began to drift back to their stations. "Everyone's fine!" Mr. Jenkins shouted. "Back to your lessons!" He helped Oliver limp across the room and sat him down so he could lean against the wall. I followed them at a slight distance, and waited until Mr. Jenkins looked up and noticed me before speaking.

"What happened?" I asked softly, coming a little nearer.

As Oliver seemed content to sit with his eyes closed for a while, Mr. Jenkins stood. "An accident," he said again. "None of us know the full extent of our powers, and sometimes... something goes out of control. Pat got the rope too tight, and when Oliver began to panic, so did Pat. He drew the ropes tighter and tighter, and couldn't focus enough to stop."

"Will he be all right?" I asked, looking at the wounds on Oliver's hands, only able to imagine the bruises on his legs and ribs and arms.

"He will," answered Mr. Jenkins. "We have a box of medicinal supplies for emergencies. Mostly I just think he's frightened."

I nodded. I couldn't blame him.

"Thank you for your concern, but you should go back to your lessons, Bernice." His use of my given name made me stop short and give him a puzzled, displeased look. "There is no need to stand on ceremony here, don't you think?" he asked with an easy smile. "Out here in the wilderness, far from civilization. Besides, we all must work together, and to do that, we must all be friends. So... friends?" He held out his hand.

I took it without hesitation, though it did take me another second or two to echo him: "Friends."

"That's better," he grinned, squeezing my hand once before letting go. I wandered back to my group a little puzzled, and more than a little concerned for... well, for several things. The rest of the day passed uneventfully but for the second incident.

Everyone was finishing their supper and preparing for the debriefing to come. Each night, a different person speaks on something they have learned about Illumination that day, or something they had read about in one of the books Professor Eberhart had sent with them. Tips to help the rest of the students, or encouraging stories of people from the past who were Illuminated. Every few days, I was told, they would also read a letter from the professor which he had somehow managed to get up here. (I should ask about the method; do they have carrier pigeons I have not seen? Does a student meet him halfway down the mountain in the middle of the night?

Before the talk for the night began, I returned to the girls' side of the cavern to quickly retrieve my coat, as I was rather cold now my coffee had been drunk and we were getting ready to settle down for the evening. The room was empty but for one bed, which was odd, as everyone should have been in the main cavern.

The figure on the bed was Ivy. She appeared to have fallen, as her legs were tangled in her skirt, and one arm was trapped beneath her body in what looked like a very uncomfortable position. She was whispering unintelligibly, staring straight ahead like she had seen a ghost. Her gaze was so intense that I actually turned around to see what she was looking at, but there was nothing there. "Miss Means?" I asked, creeping closer. "Ivy?" She did no respond, even when I waved my hand in front of her face.

My only thought was that she was having some sort of fit, and needed help. I threw back the curtain in the doorway and shouted for Lucas, who appeared a moment later. Zebediah was right behind him, no doubt having heard my shout as well. "I came in and saw her like this," I told Lucas.

He dropped to his knees beside her, then turned to look at me. "Paper!" he demanded. "And a pen. Quickly!"

I dithered where I stood for a moment, thinking that a bizarre request, given the circumstances, but Zebediah reached into one of the pockets on his trousers to bring out a small notebook, the pages of which were bound together by some rough twine, and a smudgy pencil. (Later he told me he had asked for both items and made a book from the paper, so as to always have some way of communicating with people who did not understand his hang gestures.)

Lucas yanked both from his hands, then leaned down to listen to Ivy. He started writing as fast as he could, simply ripping off the top page when it was full and going on to the next. When Ivy paused for breath, he took a second to stack the papers on the next bed in the order in which they had been written, then he was back to writing. It seemed he was copying down what she said.

"What are you--" I began to ask, but he shushed me and shook his head, eyes never leaving the paper and pencil. I moved closer to Zebediah and he put his arm around my shoulders. I have seen him only at meals for the past few days; after having spent nearly every moment with him, day and night, for weeks before that, I have found myself missing him, and was glad for his nearness.

A few minutes later, Ivy trailed off seemingly in the middle of a sentence, though I could not hear what she was saying. Lucas waited at her side a moment more, pencil poised, but her eyes drifted closed. Whatever had happened, it was finished now.

Lucas took his time gathering up the scribbled-on papers. He shifted Ivy so she was lying on her back, and even tugged at the hem of her skirt so it lay flat over her legs. He gave her one last, rather sad look, then came over to where Zebediah and I stood. "Sorry about that," he said softly, as if he might wake her. "She is fine. You did well to come and get me, Bernice. If that ever happens again, call me. Or better yet, do what I did, and take down what she says."

"Why did you do that?" I asked, also in a soft voice. "What was she saying? And why did she not respond when I spoke to her?"

He hesitated, shuffling the papers in his hands. What was left of the notebook, he returned to Zebediah, as well as the pencil. "Ivy... sees the future," he said slowly. "I know it is difficult to believe, but you have absorbed quite a lot of new information in the past few weeks, and have witnessed things most people think impossible. So believe me," he urged. "She sees the future. Professor Eberhart says it is unusual, but not unheard of, in those who are Illuminated. It just... happens. She collapses and goes into a sort of trance. When she was small, her family thought she was having seizures, and tried to hide it. She wouldn't be marriageable if that were the case; no one would want to risk her having children with the same affliction, not to mention the disgrace of one of her 'episodes' occurring in public. Heaven forbid," he scoffed, rolling his eyes, obviously thinking her family's concern was misplaced. "But once we got to the academy, the professor recognized it for what it is."

"So she was... giving predictions just now?" I asked.

"Exactly. It seems like gibberish at first, but when she wakes up, we'll go over it together. She even has a special book she keeps everything in, so we'll copy it down there. Or rather, she will," he smiled. "My handwriting is atrocious."

"Then what?" I felt the gentle pressure of Zebediah's fingertips on the small of my back and looked up at him, but his eyes were on Ivy's prone figure, a little ways away from us.

"We... decipher them. As best as we can. For example, if she does not know the name of the person she 'sees,' she will describe him. Once in a while, Professor Eberhart will recognize someone, but not often. He'll be here in a week, at least, so we only have that long to wait to show him this."

I, too, was watching Ivy. She looked peaceful, like nothing had happened. "Is there anything I may do?" I asked, my eyes still on her.

"Thank you, but no," said Lucas. "Everyone else here knows, so you needn't worry about keeping a secret. I would just rather you didn't go out there and blab that Ivy had another bout of prophecy," he told me with a small smile. "We need a little time alone to sort out the latest batch."

"Understood." I gave a small curtsey, then Zebediah and I left to hear what was left of the debriefing.

Can you imagine, Dear Reader, seeing the future? Falling into a trance and muttering strange things, only to wake up and.... I wonder if she remembers these episodes, or if she awakens entirely ignorant of anything that had happened. How awful it would be to wake alone, finding yourself on the floor with no recollection of the past few minutes! I know that Lucas assured me she was all right, but I still cannot help but worry for her. She is blunt and odd, but we are all here together, as Lucas keeps saying. We are friends, and I do not want anything bad to happen to her.

1 comment:

cher said...

Dear Bernice,
I have one question for you: What is your mission, your vision, your goal? And that of the entire group of gifted ones. Where there is no vision, the people perish. If everyone is just left to develop his or her power - for no particular mission or purpose, I fear the group is in danger of absolute power corrupting absolutely. Mr. Miller may well be the needed skeptic or neutralizing component.

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