|Photo credit: Vanessa Barger (pssst... she's our very own YAFFer!)|
Lost LanguageDon’t scream and we’ll let you live. That’s what they said. Two days ago.
I wonder if Father will do what they want. If he even knows I’m gone. He spends so much of his time running from meeting to meeting I barely know we live in the same house. When he is home, he prefers to lock himself in his office scribbling at his desk, big silver headphones on his ears. Drowning out the world to concentrate on work. Drowning out his only daughter. His only family since Mom died.
A thin slice of light blinds me as the door slides open and I wrap my arms tighter around my knees where I sit.
“Get up,” A woman says. She’s the same one who took me. Dark curls, wide brown eyes, heart-shaped face. That's one thing Father taught me, pay attention to detail, it might save your life one day.
“I said get up.” She opens the door wider and begins to enter.
I scramble to my feet, legs shaky beneath me. “Did my Father do what you wanted?”
“Let’s go,” she says.
I follow her down the manila corridor, through doorways with large broken doors hanging from bent hinges. The cool air and burnt scent draws my attention to the walls, etched with deep grooves of black that cast outlines of where people or furniture might have stood, like a reverse shadow.
“Where are we?” I ask through cracked lips.
“These were supposed to be blast-proof, you know,” she says and runs her finger in a line along the soot.
The frigid cold reaches me before we enter the expansive room. Its far wall and three stories above have been blown away and I understand where we are. A place no New Yorker goes anymore. A place bombed like the rest of the island twenty-five years ago, ten years before I was even born.
The woman grabs me back from the main chamber. Away from the wreckage of chairs, tables and exposed cables long dead from carrying electricity. Away, from the man struggling against two larger men at the center of it all.
“Daddy!” I scream and try to get out from her grasp, but she holds me tight.
“What did I tell you about screaming?” she whispers into my ear, her curls tickle my cheek.
“Please,” I say.
But she drags me away, through a doorway and up a narrow flight of stairs. We enter another small room, this one with glass at its center and a view of the huge room beneath. She lets me go and leans against the exit.
On top of a desk, covered in years of dust, are computers, papers, and headphones that look similar to Father’s.
“What is this place? Please, I need to go to my Father. I’m sure he’s given you what you want.” I peak over the desk and cringe as one of the men slap him in the face. Before I know it, my hand pounds against the window. “Daddy!”
“They can’t hear you,” she says.
When I turn to her, she seems to be pinching her ear. “Leon, let him know.” Her eyes find mine and she says, “Now give Daddy a show. Look out the window.”
I follow her commands, but wish I didn’t as I watch one of them men direct my father’s gaze toward me. His eyes go wide, and even from where I stand the fear is evident. My hand aches as I pound on the glass once more. “Daddy!”
“Do it,” the woman says from behind me.
Seconds later, their large fists crash into his temples as booted feet send him to the floor in a crumpled mass.
“No!” I scream and the rusted gate that’s held my secret for so long crumbles to dust as a string of words in my mother tongue fly out of my mouth. Realizing what I’ve done, I clamp my hand over my lips.
“She’s the one,” the woman says. “Let the father go.”
My heart soars and sinks at once as the men drag Father through another exit and out into the night.
“He wouldn’t tell us, you know.”
I turn to her.
“Too loyal to the President, I guess. But you. You’re the true gem.”
“Wha—what do you want from me?” I ask, tears burn as they slide down my face.
“President Smith has coded documents we need deciphered, written in your lost language, of course. And I had a feeling your dad wasn't the only speaker. We need your help.”
“Why do you think I’ll help you? You’re terrorists,” I say. “You must be, or else you wouldn’t do this.”
Her laughter is high pitched, like bells on Christmas and it echoes through the room. “Things are more complicated than that, and trust me, your precious government has done far worse. Tell me, have you heard of The Free Children?”
“Well, come with me and let’s get acquainted.”
“I’m not going anywhere until you promise me he’ll be safe.” I cross my arms in front of my chest, and root my feet to the ground.
“Oh, he’ll be safe for as long as you cooperate. You have my word.” She smiles.
“Like that means so much,” I say.
“You won’t get any other offers, and the alternative is less the desirable, I assure you.” She moves out of the doorway, leaving room for me to join her. “Come on, Deva, the deal won’t stay on the table forever and I can bring him back with a word.”
For him, I follow her.
(c) 2010, MB
Some of you may recognize a main character from my current WIP, Laced. But I hope you enjoyed it even if you haven't been reading Laced as it goes along.Vanessa Barger