The Leaves Are Turning Brown – Chapter 21

Esther was understandably pleased when we told her we’d like to stay for a while.  She stood up and instantly bid us follow her down to the vaults.  I wondered why she didn’t call them vaults when I was here before, and thought she might have slipped up on her, normally well crafted, way of talking.  I don’t trust her at all, and have the strong feeling that she is hiding something from us. After some protestation she acknowledged that we had had a long day, and needed rest.  One of her men took us to a bedroom and I heard him wait outside after we closed the door.  I took Jules in my arms again and we moved onto the bed without breaking the hold.  Jules fell asleep in moments, but I took a long shower and changed into the cotton pyjamas in the room, before going to sleep myself.

When we awoke Jules was snuggled up to me and curled in a ball up against me.  As her eyes open, I take in the beautiful depths of her face, and I kiss her gently.  I can feel the excitement for getting into the training rooms, so quickly get up and wash again before dressing.  Jules can clearly sense my urgency, so showers quickly and we head downstairs.

Esther is more giddy than me this morning, and no sooner are we done with breakfast, the three of us walk the long way down the house and down into the vaults.

The long sweeping staircase heading down into the dark recesses of the house reminds me of my last visit.  I have none of the apprehension I felt before, and I feel more confident now.  Maybe the abilities, or glimmers as I call them, are giving me security, as they have appeared every time I’ve been in peril recently.

The first room we enter, much lower down than the clinic, has a desk and three doors marked ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’.  There is nothing else of note in the room, except bare stone and a few simple light fixtures.

Esther explains that I should sit in the chair, and then try to project myself through the doors, and report on what I see on the other side.  I sit down at the desk and look at each door.  For a few minutes I sit, looking up and down the room, trying to illicit a reaction of some kind.  Nothing happens, so I sigh and look to Jules, shrugging my shoulders slightly.  Jules comes over to me and puts a hand on my shoulder, leaning down to my ear.

“Close your eyes and count to 30.  When you open them I’ll be on the other side of one door.”

I close my eyes and begin to count, listening to the sounds of shuffling feet and then a door opening and closing.  I can tell it’s the door to the left of me.  A moment later I hear the other two doors open and close.  When I reach 30 I open my eyes and see Esther walking back down the row of doors.  It is obvious she has walked with Jules to each door, and then carried on when Jules stayed in one of the rooms on the other side.  I have no idea which room it is.

I take a deep breath and look at each door, wondering where Jules is.  I look at each door, examining the grain of the wood, looking closely at any knots or blemishes, trying to picture what is on the other side.  I sit back and try to view all three doors at once, but the desk is too close.  I grip the table edge and push hard, hoping that if I really push at nothing but myself I will illicit a glimmer to check each door.  But nothing happens.  I exhale sharply and lean back.  It feels like when they took Jules, the futility of watching those men pushing her in the to the back of the car.  I see the look on her face from the car window before they drive off, the fear and panic.  The guilt washes over me and I feel anxious again.

I am barely looking ahead now, as the playback of recent events in my mind is taking all my focus.  I think about Jules that first night, being taken from outside the pub.  I realise what I saw that night, and know that by changing the outcome I merely delayed the inevitable.  I think about that first night, lying face to face on her bed.

My focus is pulled back into the room, as I see the faint light of a glimmer starting to form. I focus on the glimmer and watch it grow.  I see myself, getting up and walking around the desk.  Esther can see something is happening as I see her eyes widen.  The glimmer moves forward and approaches the centre door, but pauses.  I can see the glimmer, but cannot see from the perspective in front of the door.  I focus on Jules and feel my consciousness lifting up and following the path of the glimmer, until it feels as if I am stood in front of the door. I know I am still in the chair, but can feel the doorknob in my hand.  The door opens easily and I take a step in, looking around. Jules is not here, but there is a large green circle painted on the back wall.  In an instant the glimmer fades and I sweep back to my body, which twitches as I land back in my own body.  My eyes are a bit fuzzy, and the disorientation takes a few seconds to clear. I turn my head slightly, it feels heavy and slow compared to what I just saw.  Esther is wide eyed and looking at me.

“It worked, didn’t it?” her voice rasps as it comes out.

“Yes, I saw the green circle in the middle room, but no Jules.” I almost smile as I reply, as a wave of euphoria comes over me.

I return my gaze to the left hand door and think again about Jules.  I think about arriving at my mum’s, and spending the first night, somewhat awkwardly, next to each other.  I think about the following day, all the fun moments connecting into one long image of Jules.  Again the glimmer begins to appear, and walks toward the left door.  I see myself walking forward, glowing with light, and force my consciousness forward.  I reach out and turn the handle again, and look in.  Jules is standing at the back, facing the door, standing in front of a red triangle, painted on the wall.  I laugh, but her face doesn’t change.  She looks calm and I linger there for a moment before the glimmer fades, again pulling my consciousness back to my body at the desk.

“Come out from the left door, Jules” I shout into the room.  “That red triangle doesn’t match your hair”. I laugh again, feeling the lightness of my head again.

Esther gasps as Jules walks out from the left room, smiling with a confused grin.  I stand up and walk over to Jules, hugging her and smelling her hair.  I suddenly feel tired but put it down to the spectacle I just delivered.  I turn around to Esther and see she is still gawping at me and the door.

The morning has passed, and I’m hungry, so I suggest to Jules we take a walk before lunch.  We return to the light in the house and Esther makes plans for lunch in an hour.  Jules and I, under the careful watch of one of the men, walk out through a small side door and head down to the gardens, immaculately kept, that stretch away from the house in a rectangle several hundred metres long.

As me and Jules walk along, in silence, I try to think about the room, the doors, the glimmer and looking into the rooms.  I can’t quite believe what I saw.  Jules walks along looking at the plants and neatly manicured shrubs.  The air is clear out here, and all the trees are fluttering with brown leaves, only a few yellow leaves left giving a sense of colour to this drab day.

I want to tell Jules about what I saw, and to ask her if she saw anything when I ‘projected’ through the door, but I can’t.  I don’t understand how I would explain the feeling of looking into that room , seeing her standing there.  It felt like being moved from your seat on a rollercoaster, to another seat near the back.  It’s the same ride, going at the same speed, but the view is just slightly different.

We walk along the gravel path, and up ahead I see a fountain, turned off, but with a majestic centrepiece featuring some galloping horses.  As we approach I lead Jules around to a bench on the side.  We sit down and I look into her eyes.

“I saw you in there, standing in the room, waiting.  Did you see anything? Did you see me in there?” I meant to lead into the questions, but the excitement got the better of me.

“I didn’t see anything” she tells me, with a hint of sadness in her voice.  She looks down to our feet and quietly repeats “nothing”.  I take her hand and kiss it which makes her look up. I lean forward and kiss her.  We sit like this for a while, kissing and holding each other.

We walk back up to the house and I tell Jules “It was you the whole time, thinking of you made it work.  I couldn’t make it happen until I started thinking of the time we’ve spent together, and then it was easy. I just pictured you and it was like my whole mind wanted to see you again.”

Jules smiles a wide smile and we skip up the steps to the main garden entrance to the house.  The man at the door guides us to the left for the dining room and we go in for lunch.

Esther is all questions over the meal, and I make sure my mouth is always occupied with some food or water, so I can’t fully respond.  I want to hold some of it back from her.  At least she saw nothing either, except how she described a sort of calmness coming over me.  She told me how my body went rigid and then limp, barely noticeably, but she could tell I wasn’t in there. I look over to Jules who is also focusing on her food.

After lunch we return to the vaults and go into a different room. As I walk in I notice three desks, each with a pen and paper, spread out so they all face outwards to the walls.  I walk into the middle of the desks and rotate, examining each one.  They are the same, exactly, as each other.  There is no way to discern them apart. Jules takes up a position in the corner of the room to observe what I am doing. As I look over to her I see she is looking at Esther, a hint of anger in her expression.

Esther explains that in this room, I must pick a desk, sit and begin writing.  While I am writing though, I must try to project my glimmer out and write something different at one, or both, of the other desks.  I look at her disbelievingly.

“I can’t interact with objects, can I?”.

“Then how, pray tell, did you open the doors to look into the rooms this morning?”.

She’s quite right.  I hadn’t noticed but that was the first time I’d seen a glimmer interact with the physical world.  Jules had said the door didn’t open, so I can only assume that, even if I can write on three sheets of paper at once, no-one but me will see it, and only for the duration of the glimmer. I take a seat at one of the desks nonetheless, as Esther takes up the corner by the doorway.  She operates a small control panel in the wall, that I didn’t notice before, and the lights go out for a second, before a single light goes on above each desk.  The light has a strange blueness.

“This light may allow me to see what you see.  It projects light at a different frequency, closer to the blue portion of the spectrum.  Please don’t speak while you do the test, as I want to be unbiased if I do see something.  This is a pet theory of mine, and I’m very eager to see if it works”.

I start writing, slowly at first when I don’t know what to write, but then I begin writing a letter to Jules.  I write about how we met, about how I feel, about coming here and the walk we just had around the garden.  As I write I notice the glimmer beginning to show, brightly masking my hand and making it difficult to write.  I see two glimmers get up and go to the other desks.  I look across to Esther who is peering into the light, scrutinising the empty seats.  Jules is looking at me, and I smile at her.  I continue writing but am aware the glimmers have started writing also.  I keep writing but think about what they are writing, and whether Esther can see anything.  I find myself drifting backwards and into one of the glimmers.  I look down and see the writing on the page:

“She’ll never see, never glimpse what you can see.  It’s not for her, it’s for us only.  She will try and try to get at it.  She wants it for herself.  Be careful”

As I read the words I drift into the other glimmer, looking down at the words on the page:

“Take care of Jules, she is so lovely and kind.  Esther has got it all wrong.  The DNA is a symptom, of our disease, not the cause.  You broke your mind, broke it in half, and when it came back together it came back different.  Take care of Jules.”

My eyes blur and when I look back down I see the letter I’d written to Jules.  I look up at her and she is still looking at me.  Esther is fiddling with the control panel, looking back at the room and me, then quickly back at the esoteric knobs and dials.

“It’s over” I say abruptly, “I saw the other’s writing” omitting to tell her that they were writing to me, as far as I could tell.  I felt waves of euphoria come over me, and my breathing started to feel shallow.  Leaving my seat I walk towards Jules, who keeps on looking at my seat.  I wrap my arms around her and feel her body against mine.  Suddenly she lurches back a step, looking around wildly.  My mind clears and I see the panic on her face, here from the desk I’m sitting at.  It must’ve been a glimmer that walked over to her and held her, but she jumped.  She must’ve felt me there with her.  I stand up, looking back to the desk this time, and take her in my arms.

“You were just here, a moment ago, weren’t you?” her voice is still weak and her breathing fast.

“Yes, sorry.  I thought it was me, but it wasn’t. Sorry” I feel awful for Jules, but also a little scared.  I had no idea that was a glimmer, as I was with it the whole time.

Esther is looking at us with concern on her face, and I wonder for a moment if it is for the reaction of Jules just now, or that she saw what the others were writing.  She turns and restores the full lighting of the room.

“Nothing I’m afraid.  My little experiment was a complete failure.  Are you both ok?”

I respond for us to say we’re fine.  On the way back up Esther takes me into the clinic to draw some blood and measure my heart rate etc.  Jules loiters with us and then we all go back upstairs.

Jules and I excuse ourselves from Esther and go up to our room.  Jules sits on the side of the bed and jumps when I go to hold her.  She relaxes quickly and hugs me back.  I walk around to the other side of the bed and just lie on top of the covers, looking at this girl, sitting on the side of the bed.  This girl I’ve only known a couple of weeks.  I feel awful for scaring her, and even though she hugged me back just now, it wasn’t the same.  I want to talk to her about it, but I know she needs a bit of time and space. I turn to look out the window, watching the view over the countryside as the light falls into early evening.  A few weeks and it’ll be dark by this time.  I close my eyes and drift off to sleep.  We miss dinner, and when I awake just before midnight, Jules has climbed into bed and is just in front of me, facing away.  I climb under the covers and snuggle up to her, and sleep.