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WorldApart

Page history last edited by PBworks 11 years, 6 months ago

1.

 

Lissa Griffith glanced around the room again for the thousandth time. It looked as lonely and lifeless as she felt. All the necessities were there: a desk with a computer and a comfortable chair, a table with four chairs (technically unnecessary, since they had all their meals at the commissary), a couch, and something that anywhere else would have been a home entertainment center. But it all seemed as sterile and soulless as the hospital had been. There was no life here, only existence. She began paging through the book in her lap, looking for a particular picture—one that had always somehow made her think of home, even though she had never been to the place it depicted. It was such a comfort to think that there might be someplace where she would feel at home!

 

A noise from the outside corridor interrupted her thoughts, and she looked up from her book as Tom and Mark entered the General Use Area. They were arguing again—it was hard to believe that they had been such good friends just a month ago. Mark had been the perfect stepbrother: he was bookish enough for Lissa and could keep up with her brother Tom (which was more than she could do). They even had some common interests. But the Installation just wasn’t big enough for both of them.

 

“I said ‘No.’ It’s not a toy, and you can’t go playing Robin Hood with it,” Mark said, holding his bow out of Tom’s reach.

 

“Why not? You can’t use it down here anyway,” Tom pointed out. “They don’t have an archery range. And anyway, I thought you were gung-ho about that martial arts stuff the guards were teaching you.”

 

“It gives me something to do till we leave. But once we’re out of here, I should be able to use my bow again, so I don’t want it broken.”

 

“I’m not going to break it, I just want to look at it.”

 

“Well, you can’t have it. Why don’t you go practice your carrot impersonation?”

 

Tom’s face turned a darker red than his hair as he tried to think of a good comeback. Lissa half smiled. Archery was the only pleasant anachronism in Mark’s otherwise thoroughly modern existence. He was the sort who would take almost enough medical training to qualify as an EMT simply because it was “something everyone should know.” His practicality and interest in math and science both attracted and annoyed Lissa, who preferred to study history, cultures, and languages. She once told him that he should study Welsh so that when the revolution came and everyone was forced to learn it, he would be ahead of them. For some reason he didn’t buy it. Welsh was a bygone language of a bygone age, and he was completely up to date.

 

Tom, on the other hand, was keenly interested in anything medieval. She remembered how proud Dad had been when Tom took an interest in his medieval studies, even though it was only for a game. She also remembered how disappointed he had been when he got a good look at the game. He had banned it, but now he was gone, and Tom had found a version of the game on the Installation’s computers—Dr. Clarke-Griffith had gotten him clearance for the computer as a birthday present. As a matter of security, they weren’t allowed to have computers of their own, except for Dr. Clarke-Griffith herself, and Internet access was carefully monitored.

 

“Lissa? Are you in there?”

 

“What?” Startled, she looked up at Mark.

 

“Will you keep my bow for me until we leave?”

 

“Oh, sure,” she answered vaguely. She glanced over at the computer. Sure enough, Tom was already absorbed in his game. “Mark, when are we leaving? It’s been a month now, and your mother had already been working on her project for almost a year before that.”

 

“Well, it’s a new technology. There are a few bugs to work out—”

 

“When?” She wasn’t going to let him evade the question this time.

 

“I don’t know. I think she’s supposed to give a demonstration by the end of the month. If all goes well, we should be out of here in a couple of months. Then everything will get back to normal.”

 

“Back to normal?” Lissa was not the shrill, screaming type, but the idea of things getting back to normal was the last straw. Things would never be normal again. “The accident was bad enough, but your mother having us yanked down here just because she thought it was some kind of plot is too much!”

 

“Well, it might be a bit far-fetched,” Mark admitted, “but the government took it seriously. What Mom’s doing is top secret. There are a lot of people who’d like to get her to spill some details. And we don’t know that the crash wasn’t a kidnap attempt gone wrong. I know it’s hard on you, but it’ll be over soon.”

 

“It couldn’t be soon enough for me. I wish I’d never come here. I’d like to just leave.”

 

“Where would you go? You said you didn’t want to stay at your father’s house, and you don’t have anywhere else to go.” At times Mark was irritatingly logical.

Lissa wanted to say that she would go home, but he was right: she didn’t really know where home was anymore. “I don’t care,” she answered angrily. “I just want to get as far from here as possible.” She stood up and headed for her room, her book in one hand and his bow in the other. She couldn’t remember exactly when he had given it to her.

 

“Just give it a little more time, Lissa. At least we’re all still together. And when this is over, we’ll be able to do whatever we want. We might even take a trip to Wales.”

 

She paused at the hallway and looked back at him. His words failed to comfort her, but the fact that he cared was some help. “I hope we get a place with an archery range,” she offered.

 

Mark smiled. “Count on it.”

 

She turned back to the hallway. As she left the General Use Area, she heard his quiet “Thanks, Lissa.” She smiled. It was good to have someone who understood. Tom was too busy being a “compuveg” (as Mark put it), and Dr. Clarke-Griffith was too busy with her Project.

 

The corridor, like the rest of the apartment (and, for that matter, the Installation as a whole), was well lighted without being cheery. Tom said that the place was decorated in early drab; it reminded Lissa of the hospital where she saw her father for the last time. She shook off the thought. Her room was the first on the left, right across from the one Tom and Mark shared. (“At least I have my own room,” she thought.) Further down the corridor were Dr. Clarke-Griffith’s room and the bathroom.

 

Lissa entered her room and put the bow in her closet. “I guess I’ll have to keep it locked from now on,” she sighed. She could understand Mark’s concern; he was as talented and interested in archery as she was in languages and cultures. Of course, they were only hobbies. He obviously wanted to be a physicist like his mother, and she wanted to be writer like her father—though probably not a professor.

 

She sat down at a compact desk and returned to her book, The People and Culture of Wales, by Dr. Edward Griffith. It was well written and informative, but at the moment she was mostly interested in the illustrations. They were pencil and charcoal landscapes drawn by her grandfather, Aled Griffith, a few years before he emigrated. Finally she found the picture she had been looking for: it was of a forest with a mountain in the background. She didn’t really need to look at the picture again; she had studied it so many times that it was firmly etched in her memory. But looking at it made her feel at peace, as though there were a home to go back to. There were rolling hills, a peaceful stream—she found herself wishing she could step into the drawing. “Maybe I will go to Wales,” she murmured. A note beneath the drawing said that it was loosely based on a view of the Black Mountains, though from a photograph later in the book, there wasn’t a strong resemblance.

 

She got out her notebook. Since she couldn’t have a computer, she had to do her writing the old-fashioned way. She had been surprised to discover that it did not run off her muse, and she supposed that she could stand the penmanship practice. In a way, the blank pages of the notebook were more inviting than a screen anyway. For the notebook was a new one; she had already filled two others with her stories, and looking at the drawing she could feel another tale welling up within her. She examined the picture more closely and suddenly saw her grandfather’s signature in the lower right-hand corner: “Aled Gruffudd.” He had changed the original Welsh name to Griffith after he reached America; perhaps Lissa would change it back for her trip to Wales. She smiled and wrote “Lissa Gruffudd” on the cover of her notebook. Why shouldn’t a writer have a pen name?

 

For that matter, her name was actually Melissa, but that was too long, ‘Missy’ was too juvenile, and she refused to be called ‘Mel’ (“A boy’s name,” she said). But ‘Lissa’ was short and sounded exotic, and she had used it for years. She looked at the name again: Lissa Gruffudd. She liked the look and sound of it. “‘Lissa Gruffudd’ it is, then.”

 

She laid the book open on the desk so she could glance at the picture as she wrote. It was beside her father’s Bible, the only other reminder of home she had brought along. Just looking at it brought back memories of her father reading to her on more peaceful evenings. She could even vaguely recall a woman’s face and voice, and stories and songs from long ago. She considered reading the old book, but she didn’t find the comfort in it that her parents had.

 

“What do I write about?” A story about a wicked stepmother and a dungeon sprang to mind, but she dismissed it. Dr. Clarke-Griffith wasn’t evil, just annoying. “She just doesn’t let anyone else get in her way, that’s all,” Lissa thought aloud. “In fact, there aren’t any real villains around here.” Even Dr. Baynes, Dr. Clarke-Griffith’s assistant, was more of a bully than anything else. He was always causing trouble. Mark and Tom had been getting along okay until Dr. Baynes tricked Tom into deleting the game directory from the computer’s hard disk—and Mark laughed. Mark told them later that he knew that the disk was constantly backed up (the game re-appeared the next morning), but Tom didn’t think it funny—especially when he was yelled at for messing with the disk at all.

 

Still, Dr. Baynes was the closest thing to a bad guy Lissa could come up with. Maybe he’d be a spy.... Suddenly, she remembered something from the orientation session they attended the first day at the Installation: “No records concerning your stay here may ever leave the premises.” She sighed. “Maybe I should do a story about red tape coming to life and eating bureaucrats. At least it would have a happy ending.”

 

A cloud descended. Nothing to do, nothing to write about. They’d probably take her notebooks away before she could leave, anyhow. Why bother to write? The cloud darkened; she could feel the rain coming.

 

Just then she heard another storm out front: Dr. Clarke-Griffith had returned.

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