#Mysecretfamily

The blue sky and sunlight filtered through the tinted windows and shone a dull grey. For fourteen years I witnessed the six girls’ lives unfold. Every move they made, I saw – and every sound they made, I heard. They were told that they were there because they were special. They were different. Most came through legacy, but some did not. Six doors lined the hallway attached to the dining hall and bathrooms, with one more door at the end of the hall.

Ana. Annie. Cat. Deb. Izzy. Sue.

Within mere days, they were all gone.

And these were the swan songs of each girl, but one.


>

The Tale of Ana

Ana sat in her bed trembling as she drew her thin sheets closer. Annie, her friend, hurried back into the room with an apple from breakfast. She set the red fruit onto Ana’s desk piled high with uneaten breakfasts and dinners. When she looked at the apple Annie brought back, all Ana saw was Red – the color of blood. Glossy, the shine of poison. Spotted, the way her vision always was. Suddenly, a deep pang of pain surged much-needed energy though her limbs, and she sprung up from her bed. Angrily, she yelled.

“Why are you always bringing me food? I can take care of myself!”

“But y-” Annie tried to explain before Ana cut her off.

“I don’t want you here and I don't need you here. Nobody does.” Ana’s last words spat out of her thin lips.

Annie’s head spun. Nobody needs me. Nobody needs me. Nobody needs me. Nobody needs me. The words repeated over and over going in and out of Annie’s head, leaving a trail of sickening anger. It was too much. All she ever wanted was to help Ana.

Frizzy hair blurred with blond strands as the redheaded Annie shoved Ana into the concrete wall. Ana could feel every vertebrae push into the gritty wall and knock the air out of her tar-laced lungs. In that moment, Ana’s only wish was to disappear against the surface, paper thin. The spots in her vision were joined with stars as the room twisted at wrong angles and shook and spun. Shadows resembling Annie’s wide eyes were the last thing she saw before she finally let go of the spinning room.

In those last moments, Ana was calm.

***

I want to say thank you, Annie. Thank you for looking out for me and trying to help. It was what I needed but not what I wanted. However, death is not what I want either. I never thought I was successful enough to be this close to death, but when you are so absorbed in your own head and you want to be satisfied so badly… how could you see anything else?



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The Tale of Annie

Annie did not know Ana was as fragile as she looked. Her breaths shortened, eyes fluttered, and head ached. She had just killed a person. She had just killed a person.

Suddenly, piercing cold water came flooding into the room, submerging every crevice. The water felt warm. No, it felt cold. No. Warm. Cold sweat ran down her hot back, and cold fingers curled around cold toes. She felt like she was drowning yet there was no water in her lungs. She felt like she was falling while she stood still. She was caught in the moment between drowning and drowned, falling and fallen.

When night fell, Annie was kept awake by a mind racing to imagine every possible way her life would go wrong. She had an indescribable feeling that someone was waiting for her. Or rather, something was waiting for her. A knock interrupted her thoughts. Annie curled into a tighter ball on her bed. Too afraid to look up, she trembled as footsteps drew nearer. Her breaths shortened as the distance between her and the figure shortened.

A shadow.

A smile.

A flicker.

Annie’s heart rate sped up. This happened frequently but this time it was different. Blood was pulsating so quickly throughout her body that her heart got confused. Her heart wanted to live desperately but the mind knew: she was not going to survive the figure’s attack.

***

The panic continued as I watched the knife come down into the only part of me trying to stay alive. I did not want to die and she knew it. I was scared of death. I tried to scream for help as violent knocks shook the floor and my body. The pair of eyes that stared back at me were familiar. She is coming to kill us all.



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The Tale of Izzy

The next morning, the girls were aware that Ana and Annie were gone. But that did not bother them; in fact, it almost did the opposite. In her own room, Cat’s eyeliner had a perfectly sharp tail. She wore it proudly as if she coined the ‘cat eye’. Yet she did not feel proud of the perfectly sharp lines she wore that she did not show.

Everyone knew that Cat loved to draw. The deep purple bags she carried under her inky black eyes were her sacrifice to her art, but only Izzy had ever seen her creations; Annie always told Cat to keep her drawings hidden, or else everyone would know.

Cat’s newfound weightlessness, however, encouraged her to roll up her sleeves for the first time since she started drawing on her arm. Annie was no longer there to stop her.

Later that night when Izzy was once again restless, she saw Cat’s labor. She decided not to stay and watch, so she got out of bed and ventured to the bathroom. She was scared to be alone at such an hour because of the two recent deaths, but she continued anyways. Something flickered.

Izzy shook her head and continued down the hallway that looked longer than she remembered. Her eyes stung from the tears pricking her eyes as she stumbled into the door of the bathroom. It’s happening, she thought. Tears rolled down her bloodshot eyes as she realized that she had not slept for 47 hours – and that she probably would not be able to for another 47. As she looked up into the mirror she saw a smirking friend.

Pain was driven through her.

Two smiles. Before she passed, Izzy faced the familiar figure in peace.

***

I no longer have to think or lie awake in bed every night worrying about sleep. Sleep is supposed to be an escape, but the ability to sleep escaped me. I had always wondered what or who could help me sleep… but I had not realized that the person who could help was in front of me the entire time.

Izzy finally slept.



>

The Tale of Cat

Cat was drawing deep into the night.

A grin.

A shadow.

A grin.

A breeze dried the ink on her paper. Mesmerisation engulfed her, and a foreign hand pushed her to press harder. She did not resist because she thought she was her friend; and a friend would only want the best for her. Her magical silver pen drew red. It flowed and flowed, covering her room in hot sticky paint until the pen finally ran out of ink. Before she passed, Cat thought about her killer.

***

We were the closest among the girls. She promised me relief if I pressed harder. Physical pain was supposed to replace emotional pain; doesn't it?



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The Tale of Deb

Deb woke up in her bed and looked over at Sue, who looked smugly asleep in the dusty afternoon light. The thought of getting out of bed made Deb dig her head deeper into her pillow, because this was the first time in a while she had been able to have a peaceful night of sleep. No one really cared much for Deb because Deb was so detached from everyone else. Like a broken television, her head was filled with white noise, and any occasional glimpse of color was quickly drained by unfathomable dark thoughts. So many dark thoughts clouded her existence that it all blurred into white noise. Life was meaningless when all Deb did was continue in a cycle that crippled her of hope. While Deb sunk deeper into self-hatred for how useless she was, Sue awoke realizing that she had slept past dinner.

The sleep Sue had been getting and the easing of her worries made her feel better and better every day. Her smile broadened everyday too. But a sadness still tugged at Sue; and she was determined to get rid of it.

The lights went out. Night came early.

A shadow.

A laugh.

A shadow.

Before her death, Deb tried to think about each and every girl.

***

When all the other girls died I felt guilty because I thought I deserved to die more. I was never scared of her because I knew she would get to me one day. Annie was no longer here to fear death. Ana no longer insisted on a solution. Cat no longer was here to give me a reason to stay up, and Izzy fell asleep too.



>

The Tale of Me.

I stood frozen looking at the screen that monitored my door. Her laugh got louder, and a flicker of light illuminated the hall enough to reveal a figure with a wide smile, skipping down the hall towards me. She’s coming for me.

Another flicker.

It illuminated her smile pressed against the camera. Plastered across the screen. The last thing I saw before she reached me was her Glasgow smile.

***

My last thoughts are as follows, for what they are worth. I am one of many, many who are assured that all this is just a phase. Many who wish that those around us could offer some sort of help instead of just that assurance. But I don’t blame any of my friends and family; what exactly was ‘help’? It was something I could not even give myself.

After the fact, I realized I couldn’t give help. But I gave power. I realized that I had indeed handed each and every one of them some power to exist with their own identity. I had formed the girls into entities that were parts of me. I could have been more than their sum.

But sometimes I could not feel that way.

To all the people I loved, I loved you all too much to kill myself. I didn't kill myself because I wanted to die. I was killed by my own mind.



- End -

VIII.

Two bodies were intertwined in the dark. En was locked outside the door.

“Why do you want the girl?” Malier asked.

“Prodigy botanist. For my mission to replicate the tree.”

“And why? Are you interested in a third Biosphere, so you can destroy the second like you did the first?” Malier’s tone was sharp, but feminine.

“I am just a guardian. All I know is that the tree is certainly a marvel. It collects all this ambient radiation into usable energy: everything you see on the Isle is powered by that tree. It would have so many applications even on land.”

“Have you ever thought about taking this Isle for yourself, and becoming a real Emperor?”

“What if I married you and made you the real Empress?” Ubektu whispered into Malier’s ear.

“I’d rather kill myself. There is no justice in me surviving as queen while everyone else dies on earth.”

Ubektu looked into her eyes. And was in love.

Malier bent down and kissed him on the lips. “Tonight, I like you. So I will tell you this. You don’t want to be staying over tonight. Leave your Isle. ”

“Why?”

“Suit yourself.” Malier said.

“I will have to leave tonight anyways. If I am late returning with the sample, they’ll kill my parents.”

“You mean the other investors in the Isle? Your own?”

“Yes, that’s the way business works.”

“I love it.” Malier smiles.

“I know something else you’ll love,” Ubektu said with a sparkle in his eye.

“What?”

“The Sanctuary.”

Malier sat up and lost her vain smile.



>

IX.

En followed them quietly in the dark. She saw Ubektu lead Malier down, deep down into the roots, thick and towering in nothing but darkness. Then Ubektu stood still at a certain spot.

And a door appeared in the dark. They entered.

Computer screens, camera feeds, lights, buttons, chrome. Malier looked at everything; touching everything, twisting and turning. Ecstatic, she spun around trying to figure out the entire command centre as Ubektu simply looked at her from a distance.

“I’ll be back to marry you.”

Malierheard his voice, and turned around to smile at him. Her face became distorted by terror when she saw the door close slowly, and Ubektu waving from the outside of the chamber.

“Just wait in here. I’ll bring back the sample, save my parents, let them reproduce the tree all they want, and come back here for you as soon as I can.” Ubektu’s voice faded.

Malier was still running towards the door before she realized impending doom. Collapsing along the walls, there was not a single crack to be detected by any part of her skin.

“Malier?” It was En’s voice.

A stupefied Malier watched a crouched En crawl out of a corner.“I saw him trying to trap you so I ran in here to help,” En said.

“How are you going to help?” Malier said, her voice low. “There’s nothing you need to help with. We’ve won. The Movement is coming. Our airship will be here soon to ensure the grand explosion happens. I’m in the Sanctuary to try to make sure the Sanctuary does not interfere with the explosion. Ubektu is in a hurry to save his parents, so he’ll rush to collect a sample and most likely leave before the explosion. He was a good man.”

“Are you ready to die?” En asked.

“Always have been, since the age of 5”.

“What would you want to do before you die?”

“Nothing. You? You’re still a child.”

“I’m hungry,” En said.

“The feeling will go away.” Malier said.



>

X.

Having had his fun, Ubektu knew he was out of time. He looked up at the humongous tree, standing proud against the stars. “All this money and effort put into that damn girl. To collect a stupid specimen that might fail anyways. And she disappears at just the right time.” He grunted as he randomly cut off a piece of the tree’s roots. “Shouldn’t have let her out the room.” He took the specimen he collected and got into his airship, speeding into the night sky. Behind him, leaves were falling. First a few. Then hundreds.

Then hundreds of thousands.



>

XI.

En searched the room and found seeds scattered. “Strange seeds. These must be from the tree,” she turned to Malier. “Are you hungry?” Malier didn’t answer. She was staring closely at the huge screens, displaying a 360 degree image of the night sky outside. Her left hand was holding onto something.

“Look,” En said. She pointed at the screen. “Malier, there’s Ubektu’s ship.”

In the dark, Malier’s voice was cold and clear. “I don’t know if I found the right thing. But this lever here has the scent from his hand.” She saw Ubektu’s airship, and another set of lights flickering in the dark: the airship carrying her comrades – who were on schedule to see the last night of the Isle.

En was in the corner. She held the seed with both of her hands, and whispered quietly an ancient prayer. “Thank you, for sustaining my life. May we return the favor one day.” She cracked them open, and ate. The taste made her smile, and she turned to look at Malier.

There she was, standing, frozen, but her eyes were calculating. Calculating something unknown, something complex, something that made Malier’s expression come back to a timid life; a life in stark contrast to her terrified self moments ago. Yet she continues to stare at the screen.

In a split moment, it showed a gargantuan blast of fire from the Isle. Ubektu’s ship went down seconds after Malier pulls the lever. “Why, Malier?” En asked.

Malier did not look at En, and pulled the lever again. A second blast of fire shot through the night sky, and took down the Movement’s airship. She turned back to look at En. She smiles.

“Are you happy, En? We don’t have to die now.”



>

XII.

“I am in the command centre of the Isle. I know how to locate the Isle. Tonight, I killed the keeper of the Isle. That should disconnect the rich from the Isle for some time....while they frantically search, I only need to figure out how to control the exit to this sanctuary thing. I am now the one in control of the Isle. I did it En. I took it for the poor, the oppressed, and the abused of the earth. My only regret is that I could not communicate any of this to the airship of the Movement while being stuck in here.” Malier looked down on the ground, and paused. She looked at En. “My sister was the captain of that ship.”

En saw the tears fall onto the ground. But could not hear a sob. Malier looked up and laughed. “No one said this would be easy. But tonight, I stole from the rich. Big time. The people will survive past their destruction of the earth. I shall be happy.”

Suddenly, En fell to the ground, holding her abdomen in fetal position; Malier rushed to catch her.

En was breathing heavily. Her twisted expression made Malier’s feeling of victory fade into slight panic.

“We’ll get you those blue flowers, they must help you too. Or some other type of plant on this island. There’s tons of them. They’re supposed to be untainted. And you’re a botanist of some sort. You know exactly what to do.” Malier said, as she frantically searched every lever and knob and pin to create some sort of exit. “Dammit, this is the fucking command center isn’t it?”

Slowly, screens were shutting down. Lights were flickering; then turning off. Soon, they were enveloped in darkness.

Maliernoticed En’s eyes were fixated on something in the distance. A light. A small opening to the outside. The command centre’s hum seemed to die slowly as they made their exit.



>

XIII.

Malier ran with En in her arms, speeding for the garden where En tended her wounds. She was in too much of a hurry to look up at the huge tree above them; it had lost over half its leaves in the night breeze. En was laid down on the grass. Malier stuffed little blue petals in the girl’s mouth.

“Look,” En said, pointing into the sky. Malier looked up and saw a thousand branches, bare against the moonlight. Her jaws dropped. The tree was dying. And so was her Isle.

“Some plants are fragile,” En said. “If I had went with Ubektu instead of entering the command centre, I probably could have stopped him from collecting the wrong sample. Oxidization. maybe. Somewhere, he may have cut open the skin of the tree. He wanted to preserve the Isle, but he killed it. You wanted to destroy it, but you saved it. And now, I will die with it.”

Malier’s voice was shaking. “You don’t have to die. Tell me where you live, I’ve seen too many aircrafts tucked away between all the weapons lining the armoury. I’ll take you home. I’ll take you home, your people must know what to do with you.” Malier said.

“Our teachings, it tells us to stay with the one thing that sustained your last breath. The tree’s seed was the last thing I ate, so I will stay here.” “It killed you!” Malier screamed. “It didn’t sustain you, this is not the time for traditional teachings. En, let me take you. Let me take you home.” Malier swallowed. “And then I will kill myself.”

En looked at Malier and whispered. “Can you help me?”

“Of course,” Malier said.

“Then put me down and live.”



>

Postscript I

Malier.

She left an unresponsive En in the garden. And found herself an aircraft from the Isle. She flew away into the night; thinking about En’s fate alone on the huge floating island. About the sight of the barren tree when she left. And about her sister.

Halfway on her trip home, the aircraft lost its momentum. She laughed and remembered what Ubektu said: that everything on the Isle is powered by the tree. The aircraft dropped out of the sky; she did not jump.



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Postscript II

Ubektu.

He jumped and escaped the blast fired at his airship. He rushed back to the Council, which released his parents but detained him for not being in possession of a reproductive sample. The unexplained loss of En warranted an investigation, which found the black box records of his destroyed aircraft.

The video showed that the tree went through oxidative decay, all too familiar to the researchers. Investors, his acquaintances, close friends, and other members of the Zanhadin family ended up charging him for wilful termination of the Second BioSphere. Ubektu Zanhadin died of electrocution.



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Postscript III

En.

On the Isle, there was a strong sprout growing out of a little girl’s mouth.

There was no one alive in the sky, but the animals, the plants, and the young tree.