I had never been to the upper city before. The consulate member didn’t speak to me as she led me into a tall building. Large windows exposed the interior as I entered through the glass door.
I had known the consulate favored similarity, but this was insane.
White walls. White furniture. Even the light fixtures that hung low from the ceiling were brilliantly white. Their brightness stung my eyes and forced me to look away. The air smelled of antiseptic. I had never before seen a place so clean and sterile.
“Don’t dally,” said the consulate member as she started up the stairs at the far end of the foyer. The stairs were white too. I hadn’t noticed them against the white wall.
Up and up we went. Eight flights in all.
I was out of breath by the time we reached the eighth floor. My lungs ached as I sucked in breath after breath.
The consulate member pushed open a door leading into a corridor. It was obvious she wasn’t going to wait for me to catch my breath. I had no choice but to follow.
She led me down a long hallway lined with doors. As we passed each door, my mind started to wander, and my curiosity was piqued. What mysteries lie behind each door. No one I had ever met had been summoned by the consulate. Then again, I didn’t know anyone other than Pappy, Val, and Danny. I had always kept to myself.
“This way, Ms. Black,” the consulate member said as she opened a door at the far end of the corridor. I walked into the room. Its interior was far different from the white interior I had first encountered.
The room was spacious and elaborately decorated with the heads of different animals I had only read about in books. Antlers and strange looking fish were displayed on plaques along the walls— trophies left over from when humans were on top of the food chain.
In the center of the room sat a large wooden desk. At one side sat a brown cushioned chair and at the other a smaller black chair with legs made of crisscrossed metal. Dark blue curtains were held open by tie-back and hung from ceiling to floor. They exposed the two windows that looked out over the city below.
I was so entranced by the eloquence of the room that I had not noticed the consulate member I had been following had left. It wasn’t until a man standing near the large fireplace cleared his throat that I had noticed I had been abandoned. I clenched at the edges of my overly large shirt, anxious and nervous about what was about to happen.
“Have a seat, Ms. Black,” the man said in a raspy voice. I took a seat as instructed in the small black chair in front of the mahogany desk. My heart pounded in my ears, and my hands were damp due to my nervousness.
“You should know why you are here,” said the man as he took a seat in the brown cushioned chair on the other side of the desk.
“I….” Of course, I knew why I was here. The man in front of me was about to pass judgment and cast me from the city walls.
“Don’t stutter, Ms. Black. I will ask you again.” He placed his large hand on the desk in front of him. “Do you know why you are here?”
My mind was racing as I searched for the right words to answer. By some miracle, I might be able to sway his judgment, and he would let me return to the nursery.
“I am here because of what happened yesterday,” I replied.
He sat back in his chair and pulled a rolled up white paper from his pocket. Taking a lighter from a drawer in his desk, he the end of the paper. Black smoke rolled from his mouth and hit me in the face as he exhaled. I coughed and swatted the toxic fumes away.
“And what exactly happened yesterday?” He asked as he took another hit from his cigarette.
“I…I had a heat stroke,” I replied. “I didn’t mean to. I promise. It was hot, and I had carted several loads from the river to the nursery by the time the consulate arrived.”
He took another hit and again blew the smoke into my face.
“I promise it won’t happen again. Just let me return to the nursery,” I pleaded.
A sardonic smile appeared on his face as he pushed the end of his cigarette into a glass ashtray on his desk. “You won’t be returning to the nursery,” he replied.
My heart sank at his words. My whole life was in the palm of this man’s hands. I don’t even know his name, but he has the power to change everything. He hits a little red button on the side of his desk and a consulate member dressed in white enters through the door.
“Ms. Blanchard, please prepare our guest for departure,” he said to the consulate member as he stood from the desk and returned to the bookshelf by the fireplace.
“Right away, Mr. Stewart,” the lady in white replied. “Ms. Black, this way please.” I had never seen anyone with hair as red as hers. It was like the color fire mixed with the rays of the sun. She smiled as she ushered me towards the door.
“Ms. Black,” the man called before I exited the room. “Mind your words where you are going. The human race may very well depend on your performance.”
The lady in white ushered me through the door.
The human race may very well depend on your performance.
What performance? I thought I was going to be expelled from the city. I was more confused than ever after meeting Mr. Stewart. His words reverberated in my mind until I reached my next destination.
A large bathroom with an oversized tub full of pink petals overflowing with bubbles awaited me.
Several ladies dressed in white grabbed hold of me as soon as the door to the bathroom closed. They stripped me of my clothes and placed me in the sweet-smelling water of the tub.
The bubbles licked my skin as the warmth of the water sank into my bones relieving my tired muscles from the aches of my labors. The ladies in white quickly started working on washing me. After a lot scrubbing and another bath full of clean water, the ladies in white pulled me from the tub and wrapped me in a soft robe.
My skin was sensitive and raw from their administrations. They sat me down in a large cushioned chair and began to rub creams into my skin as well as oils into my hair.
It took another hour of pruning, plumping, and waxing before they were finally finished with me. They clothed me in a plain brown dress that reached below my knees and had a black fitted belt at my waist. I wish I had a mirror so I could see their masterpiece, but as it were, the bathroom did not have that amenity.
A lady dressed in blue came to collect me when the ladies in white had finished their work. I followed her down the eight flights of steps, which was not an easy feat to do when wearing heels for the first time.
Instead of leaving the building, as I thought she had intended, she turned left at the bottom of the stairway and led me to yet another set of stairs. This set led down into the sublevels of the building. I felt like I was descending into hell. The stairway grew hotter, the further down we went.
The paint on the walls had turned from white to a brilliant shade of ruby. After we descended two flights, I found myself on a large dimly lit platform.
I had read about subways before, but I had never seen one—nor did I think I would ever see one in my lifetime.
“This way, Ms. Black.” The consulate member ushered me into the subway car and towards a cushioned seat. I sat as instructed. She pulled a black belt from the side of my seat and pulled it across my lap fastening it to a metal device on the other side of the chair.
My heart was pounding as I grabbed at the chair’s armrests. The consulate member exited the subway car and returned to the platform without giving me a second glance.
I was alone.
A high-pitched whistle blew, and the doors of the car closed. There was no light inside the subway car, and I was cast into complete darkness when it sped from the platform.
The Revenant City Series (Part 10) coming soon
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