Chapter 2: Lost

1579 Words
The tears continue to flow as I lie there, struggling to understand. I'm alone again. The woman is gone. My heart has left me and I am lonely. One of my knees jerks in protest to that understanding. My body is wakening faster now. I am able to lift my hands and look at them, if only for a moment. The muscles feel atrophied, as if I'd been lying here an eternity, like I've never known movement. My fingers are long and thin, my skin pale. Veins run across the backs, bones and tendons as I flex them to watch them move. I'm fascinated by myself, though I know it's foolish. I've seen this before. Why does it feel like the first time? The stall wall makes a loud metallic protest as I lean forward. My fingers press against it as I use it to rise, wobbling and weak, to my feet. The boots I wear feel heavy, the soles an inch thick with sturdy treads. My jeans are also rugged, camo green jacket as well. Someone has dressed me carefully. I'm sure I had nothing to do with it. By the time I'm able to exit the stall, my body is much more stable. A few steps take me to the dilapidated counter. One end has detached from the wall, the sinks hanging from their pipes. A quarter of a mirror remains in the frame, if not completely intact, and I pause, drawn in by the reflection. The edges of the glass are spider-webbed with cracks, throwing back odd images of my hands and the shoulders of my jacket. I tilt my head to the side, enough to fit my face into the one small square of unbroken mirror. I have dark brown eyes. And dark brown hair. It's long, in a ponytail. Everything else about me is unremarkable. Who am I? I know my face. But I don't know who I am. It isn't until I drop my eyes, head tilting back that I feel a thrill of recognition. I look back again, eyes searching for the flicker of memory as my face, now cut apart in the broken glass, stares back at me. I understand in a moment. My face. I know it. But it's not just my face. It's her face. The woman from the image, my heart. I have her face, if a much younger version of it. Is she my mother? I shudder all over, muscles protesting, aching for a moment before full control returns. I'm suddenly strong, feeling recovered. A deep breath expands my lungs, exits in a rush. Now what? She told me to find them. Clone Two. Clone One. And I am Clone Three. What does that mean, clone? Are they my friends? My sisters? She said I would know them. But how to find them? Indecision holds me tight. I stand in place, surrounded by old destruction, trying to decide what to do. My eyes fix on the door. It's mostly off its hinges, hanging to one side. A dark space beyond. I feel safe here, uncertain but unwilling to move. Except she expects it of me. And I can't let her down. Stumbling at first, from nervousness this time, I make my way to the door and peer out into what seems to be a hallway. Left, more black. Right, what looks like a glimmer of light. My hand rests on the door jam, fingers locking on the rusting metal. I brush it away, watching the flakes fall to the floor, feeling the sting as one scratches me. A tiny pink line on my palm. No blood. I think that's probably a good thing. It's easy to step over the corner of the door, at least physically. I clasp my shaking hands together as I pause in the darkness on the other side. The light from the bathroom calls me back, but I resist. I have a job to do. Maybe the two I seek are only down this hallway. The idea of seeing the woman again is enough to drive me forward. I choose the direction offering some light. It's faint, a gray, cold tinted brightness, but grows stronger the further I progress. A patch of it shines across the hallway and, as I draw closer, I realize it's coming through a small, square window. A heavy door, much like the one to the bathroom, guards the way. Only this time it's intact. Something catches my eye. I turn and look across the hallway, to the opposite wall. There hangs a sheet of paper. It used to be red, I think, but now is faded pink in spots. Someone drew on it with a marker. I come closer to it, fingers brushing over the turned up edges. Stick figures. A girl maybe, what looks like a dog. Two taller people, one with long hair. Mom and Dad? And a box with a triangle on top. Swirling lines out of what has to be a chimney. The words, so faint, but I can read them still. Home Sweet Home. I back away, feeling my throat tighten. Why? I don't know. Only that this makes me horribly sad and want to collapse to the floor, hug my knees and sob. Confusion wars with frustration. I tear my gaze from the image and go back to the door with the window. It's crusted with dust, I can't see through it, but the light is enough of a temptation. My fingers find the flat handle and I push down. The door swings inward. I follow it, letting go as I drift into the room. It's so quiet. At least the bulb in the bathroom buzzed softly. Here there is nothing, just dead air stinking of mold and age and the absolute silence of being alone. The room is full of debris, but I ignore it for now. Three large plate windows look outside. I rush toward them, craving the view, to see the outdoors. Other people. Other places. To know I'm not alone. The glass is cold when I press against it and I have to use the cuff of my jacket to clear away some of the dust. I'm expecting a certain view, though I have no idea why or from where my expectation feeds. But what I see sends a shock through me so powerful I almost crumple again. This can't be right. The emptiness. The burned out and rusted cars in the cracked and buckling parking lot. Grass and weeds grow through, a huge patch in the center tipped over where a tree has grown. The sky is heavy, gray, darkening by the moment, the glow of it fading. Night time? Perhaps. The street beyond is just as horrible. It seems packed with debris in places, the surrounding buildings crumbling. I'm amazed as I look out how these three windows I peer from remain intact. Others I observe across the street and, as I lean closer, glancing right and left, in this very building are mostly broken, glass gone completely. For a moment my mind leaves me, wandering elsewhere. To a sunny street, a green park, laughing people, the chime of an ice cream truck-what is ice cream?-and the warmth of the sun. The gray wins, the falling night crushing my memory and leaving me shaking, breath fogging the dirty glass, looking out over a world I know nothing about. I back away from the window, heart speeding up, hands clenching into fists as I struggle to control my breathing. I stumble over a desk. Yes, it's a desk. With a heart carved in the top of it, old and fragile, bits of wood and Formica splintering away. A + M. How sweet. How charming. It makes me want to throw up. My gaze lifts, settles on the far wall. A sheet of black covers it, a silver shelf beneath now tarnished, though untouched by whatever disaster has fallen here. A blackboard. So this is a school. A school has kids in it. Children come to school to learn, don't they? I shake my head, clutching it in my hands. I know so many things, much here is familiar. And yet the most important details are gone, lost to me. The frustration is incredible. Anger rises behind it. I lash out with one boot, kicking the dying heart from the crumbling table and watch in horror as it spins off to crash into a pile of others. I sob once, but still it quickly. There is no time to feel sorry for myself. She has pinned her hopes on me. Her needs. And if the rest of the world looks like this now, so very wrong, I must be here to make it right. The hall is darker than before. The sun is almost down behind the bank of gray. My sight is failing in the dark. I must get outside before I'm trapped in here. That thought makes me twitch. Someone screams. It's a distant sound, echoing and impossibly far away. But it's a sound. Was it a scream for help or merely a shout of some kind? Irrelevant. This is the first offer of contact I've had. I'm not alone. And that makes me feel immensely better. Perhaps whoever it is will know what she wants me to do. And I won't be alone anymore. I turn and follow the sound, deeper into the darkness. ***
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