08 May 2009


By Curtis C. Chen

The girl standing on Ellen's doorstep is drenched. She looks like a wet cat, her dyed red-and-purple hair flattened against her small head. Cold wind blows past her into the house as Ellen stands there, frozen.

"Are you Ellen Montgomery?" the girl shouts over the storm.

Somewhere behind Ellen, a tea kettle whistles.

"Ellen Montgomery!" the girl repeats, enunciating as if she thinks Ellen might have a hearing problem. "Is that you?"

"Yes!" Ellen says. "Yes, that's me."

"Can I come in, please?" the girl asks, her voice a little more respectful now.

Ellen says, "Who are you?"

The girl says, "I'm your daughter!"


Neither of them drinks her tea. Ellen's cup sits on the table, steaming away its heat, while the girl--she says her name is Theora--cradles her cup with both hands, still shivering.

Ellen shakes her head as she flips through the contents of the folder, the papers and films still curled and warm from being hidden beneath Theora's hoodie.

"Where did you get all this?" Ellen asks.

Theora shrugs. "It wasn't easy. I mean, the DNA I did first, that was easy--I just sent away for one of those heritage-testing kits from NatGeo, right? And then I knew I was adopted."

"I'm not sure what I can do for you," Ellen says.

"I just wanted to meet you," Theora says. "And warn you."

"Warn me? About what?"

Theora's face is an unreadable mask. Ellen wonders if that's a natural expression, or if the girl's been practicing for a long time.

Theora takes both hands away from her teacup. Ellen lunges forward to catch the cup before it hits the floor, but it hangs there in midair. Then it rises. Ellen watches it float up to Theora's eye level.

"That's not--" Something sparks inside Ellen's head, and she crumples to the ground, unconscious.


When Ellen wakes up, she's got a splitting headache. She sits up on the couch and sees Theora on the floor.

Ellen feels a sharp pain as she turns her head. She touches the back of her neck and feels a patchwork of bandages. Her hand comes away sticky with not-quite-dried blood.

"What did you do?" Ellen asks Theora.

The girl holds out her left hand. Her palm has been stained red by the tiny tangle of wires she's holding. Ellen can see a small bulb at the center of the mass, like a spider with too many legs.

"They lied to you," Theora says. "They can't do a permanent memory wipe. This thing was suppressing your recall. My biological father had one too."

"You met Michael?" Ellen asks. "You found him?"

"Yeah," Theora says, looking down. "I couldn't remove his implant before it--I couldn't get it out in time. I'm sorry."

Ellen feels like she should cry.

"We need to go," Theora says, standing up.

"Go where? Why?"

Theora starts to reply, but Ellen can't hear her. A vivid flood of sounds and smells and sensations is filling her head, blotting out the present with the past.


1 comment:

LC said...

Ooooh, I like! Superpowers, big discovery, a big start at the very end. What's not to love? One of my more recent favorites.

I also like the small bits of imagery. I'm not usually too impatient for it but you've done a wonderful job of interspersing it with dialogue (case in point: the tea kettle in the beginning).

Pacing is good, and the story is really focused.

Nit: (you know me, I always seem to have at least one) I could have done without the father dying. I'm guessing that that's in there, not for his death, but to explain to the reader that the woman could have died as well had her daughter not rescued the thing from her head, but I wish there was some other way without bringing a third character in.