(largely because writing poetry when hormonal (tmi sorry) is a very bad idea)
“Where are we going?”
“Shh they’ll hear you.”
“Who’ll hear me?”
“I swear to gods, if you don’t shut up, I’ll knock you out and drag you the rest of the way.”
I hadn’t asked for this. I was just a freaking waitress. No one had ever said, “Hey Celeste, would you like to be dragged on a surreal adventure and fight for your life?” I’m pretty sure I would have said no. Waitressing certainly wasn’t my ideal life and sometimes I piled on blankets instead of turning on the heat, but I got food at the café and I went to bed every night pretty sure I’d wake up the next morning. Now I was running down this damned corridor with some weirdo wondering what the hell had happened.
Drew banged on a door. “Whatever it takes,” he shouted. The door opened and he ushered me in.
“Whoa.” I can be pretty freaking eloquent sometimes.
We were inside what I guessed to be the basement of, well, some building but the people here had set it up completely military bunker style. Maps were strewn on tables, people hunched over them, groups of people were playing cards, a somewhat frazzled looking couple of people were running around dishing up random food. Drew walked directly a table where a couple men were looking over what appeared to be blueprints. The men looked up at him, glanced at me, turned back to Drew.
“Who the hell is she?” Bushy-beard man did not looked pleased at my presence and I stared at the floor.
“She’s um, well,” Drew looked at me. “It’s hard to explain, I think we need to talk in private.”
“Drew, we don’t have time for games,” spectacles man had a very educated sounding eloquence to his speech that somehow made him more intimidating than Bushy-beard.
“Good, I’m not playing any.”
“Let’s go to the back.” Spectacles looked at me. “Don’t touch anything. Please.”
I nodded and watched the three of them walk into a corner partitioned by a curtain. The fabric was heavy enough to muffle their actual words, but I could tell who was talking when and from the sound of it Bushy-beard was being stubborn, Spectacles was skeptical, and Drew was somewhat frustrated. Not that I knew what he was explaining, I just knew I was tired. I sat down on an upturned crate and rubbed my temples.
I looked up and a young woman close to my age was staring down at me with a bowl and wooden spoon in hand.
“You want a bite to eat? Yeh look a mite hungry.”
“Oh, I’m uh, well, I guess I am.”
She pulled a mug from seemingly nowhere, spooned in a bit of the stew and handed it to me.
“Welcome. Where’d yeh come from then?”
“Drew brought me.”
“Drew? Where’d he find yeh?”
“I waitress at the Greasy Old Spoon.”
“Yeh waitressed yeh mean. Not no more. Sounds like an unappetizing place anyway. Eat the stew.”
I awkwardly half-drank half-ate some of the stew. “Wow!”
“Damn straight.” She started to walk off.
“Hey, what’s your name?”
“Annapurna. It means bestower of food in Sanskirt Yeh can call me Anna though.”
She walked off. Just in time too, Drew emerged from the partition followed by a grumpy looking Bushy-beard and concerned looking Spectacles. He motioned to me and I went over to meet them by the table.
“Well,” Spectacles peered into my eyes in a sort of creepy psycho-analysis fashion. “We have some testing to do.”
“Uhm.” Again, I displayed my vast intelligence and mastery of the English language.
“Don’t worry, I don’t expect you know of what I speak.”
“Hey good, because I don’t.”
“Celeste!” Drew looked like he was about to die of embarrassment.
Spectacles actually smiled, “It’s alright. Walk with me will you Celeste?”
“Excuse me?” He frowned slightly.
“I don’t know you. I just met Drew, I mean seriously? I showed up for my shift this morning – do you really think I dress like this for fun? – I’m serving Drew his breakfast number five, and the next thing I know, fire is falling from the freaking sky, Drew’s shouting something about ‘the one’ and then we’re running. The one what? The one freaking day the world ends? What is going on?”
“Are the One.”
“The one what? The one really confused waitress? Freaking a people, quit talking in code!”
“The one to… save us.”
“We don’t know for sure,” interjected Bushy-beard.
“Thank you Ondrej, I know that. But the signs are good.” Bushy-beard, Ondrej, looked unhappy.
“Rewind. Save who from what now?”
“The books tell of an end, but from the end comes a new beginning, and the One leads the way to that beginning.”
“The books. The ancient books.”
“Yes…” Spectacles hedged for a moment. “That just seems so clichéd. And really, the books are more like points of reference than exacting predictions. So the details can be-“
“But the books tell of the One, a woman, who possesses the ability to lead her people to a new beginning.”
“Okay, so two problems with that. One, I don’t have any abilities except I make a mean black coffee. Two, why do we need a new beginning? The world’s not that bad.” I thought Spectacles was going to choke. Ondrej turned pale at my words and Drew sighed audibly.
“Celeste,” Drew looked at my pointedly. “You said yourself you thought fire was falling from the sky.”
“Oh yeah. That.”
Spectacles sat me down on another crate and sat across from me. “Celeste, sometime before you were born, nations owned their own armies. There was still war, of course, and it was terrible, and some countries were in very bad shape. Some countries though weren’t quite so bad off. At least, certainly not in retrospect. Some countries were rich and people were happy, relatively speaking. But then the rich governments realized that they weren’t actually rich, it was all a façade of sorts. Not to mention that interfering in other countries’ business became both politically incorrect and necessary. You can see the problem there of course – a definite contradiction in terms. So the governments began privatizing the militaries. Armies were bought and sold like any sort of good. You can imagine though that, while okay at first, this soon led to very rich, very evil people being also very powerful.”
“Um, hey, that’s life.”
“That’s life as we know it, that’s life as you have always known it. But try to imagine that it wasn’t always that way. Try to imagine life without fear of suddenly having your door banged down and being dragged out of your house and informed it was no longer your house.”
“That only happens in big cities. That’s why I live in the freaking boonies. No one wants my little hole of a house.”
“Celeste, please stop being so argumentative,” Drew suddenly looked tired.
“She’s the one ain’t she?” Anna had reappeared from nowhere. “If she weren’t argumentative what good would she be?”
“Anna, no one has said she’s the one.” Spectacles spoke sharply. I wondered how Anna looked so nonplused.
“Oh Sul, yeh needn’t say nothin’ ‘t all to me.” Anna waved her wooden spoon at him. “Yeh can see it in her face. In her eyes. In her bein’. Yeh really think I can’t see it? Yeh’re a fool.” And off she went with an exasperated gesture of her spoon.
Spectacles looked tired again. I wondered if these people ever looked youthful and energetic. I guessed it must be exhausting to be trying to find someone to save the world.
“Anna’s right,” Drew finally said. “Anyone can see it.”
“We still have to test her.” Spectacles was firm in his decision.
“Uhm, test how exactly?”
“Sullivan will explain it in more detail tomorrow.” Drew took my hand. “I think maybe some rest is in order.” He looked pointedly at Sullivan who gestured us off with his glasses and rubbed his temples. I remembered doing the same thing just a moment earlier. I had a feeling that would be happening more and more as this whole endeavour progressed.