Short Story 35

Lily and the Hidden Society

I need to tell you a secret, but you have to promise not tell another living soul. I’m serious! This isn’t a game or a cool story some stranger at a bar is telling you on his sixth pint. This is life and death, the great abyss, the four-horseman type shit…at least it is for me. Trust me, I’m not here to say that I was randomly thrust into a world far greater than the one I was used to. Quite the opposite. Everything was designed to play out a certain way, just not by my hand.

Three weeks ago, I was tied and restrained on a chair in my living room. I remember thinking that I wish I hadn’t gone for the hand-crafted solid wood dining setting. That’s because somewhere between the torture and the punches a flimsier furniture choice may have helped me escape. I know, I know. I really should’ve been concerned with the fact that my best friend was the one doing the tormenting. Hear me out though; my choices, as far as I could tell, had no determining influence on Mike’s actions. My home décor on the other hand fell entirely under the responsibility of my currently questionable decision-making skills.

Looking back, I maybe should’ve been more freaked out. I was scared, don’t get me wrong, but I feel like movies, books, shows and the news somehow dulled my shock to the events taking place. The situation was out of my control, so why should I worry and give him the satisfaction of instilling fear in me? Instead the sassy and sarcastic side came out to play. Every question he asked I laughed off or replied with a line from a song. When he got frustrated to the point of being completely calm, Mike whispered in my ear, “Valkyrie will not be happy. Your fate is written. Valkyrie is coming for you.”

Moments later, there was a sound outside that panicked Mike. He grabbed a metal dog tag and stapled it to my shoulder with a nail gun. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on that son of a bitch. I expected him to run away as a team of federal agents broke down my front door but before they were able to reach the room, he took a few steps backwards never breaking eye contact and shot himself in the head. I will never be able to get that image out of my head. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. They were only dragged away when Agent Sherwood walked between me and my best friend’s lifeless body.

Everything had been in slow motion, but it suddenly sped all the way up and back to the madness of three agents running around my house. Like a dial being turned back on from mute, everything came back into focus. I found Sherwood’s face as he spoke to me, “You’re safe now. Is there anyone else here?” I shook my head and swallowed hard, “No…but Mike just said that something or someone named Valkyrie is coming for me.” Sherwood still had his gun out and when he noticed me looking at it dubiously, he put it away. Putting his finger to his ear, he sighed, “Prescott is down. We have the Sparrow, she needs medical attention.”

I frowned, “Did you just call me a bird?” There was no answer. Instead, a woman, Agent Frampton, started to loosen the ties around my wrists and legs. I made sure not to move too much because the nail was still in my shoulder. Frampton sympathetically said we needed to take the nail out. I agreed but stopped her as she stretched her arm out, “Let me.” After a few deep breaths I took my right hand and pulled. I couldn’t stop my hand from shaking as I placed it in an evidence bag.

Sherwood came closer, “My name is Agent Sherwood. This is agents Frampton, Blake, and Johnson. We’re from a joint taskforce. We can explain everything but not here. Can you walk?” I looked down at my blood-soaked leg and remembered Mike stabbing me earlier. I chuckled a little in disbelief, “I actually have no idea.” He offered me his hand. Taking it, I slowly stood but lost my balance after buckling in pain. Sherwood caught me and lifted me into his arms as I winced in pain.

A few hours later, I was in a secret base hidden in the middle of Oxford. A medic had seen me, and I was escorted to the intelligence hub grateful for the pain killers I had been given. The four agents I had already met were there waiting alongside Jonas, a guy who looked like he belonged in Silicon Valley, and a very intimidating woman. She introduced herself as the Commander of the Global Alliance. When I told them I had never heard of them, she said that was entirely the point. Makes sense; it wouldn’t be a very secret organisation if I had known them.

Now this was the moment when my world really turned upside down. They showed me files upon files of surveillance. Photos from when I was a kid playing at school, videos from nights out. I was being stalked by whoever or whatever Valkyrie was. Sherwood and the others knew how to find me because they were tracking several criminal syndicates across the world. The dog tag Mike had nailed to me was one of their calling cards. They were arrogant and determined. Built into their directive was a hidden mandate to find me, Lily freaking Martin, a nobody from a town near you. It’s a miracle I wasn’t found sooner.

When the shock subsided, I turned to look at them, “Why me?” Sherwood gave me a look that made me think I needed to brace myself for some revelation. Taking a step forward with a furrowed brow he said a few simple words that changed everything, “Lily, you’re not human.”

I started laughing, I couldn’t help it. These people were surely pulling my leg…But when all I got in return was deadpan faces, I started to question my entire life. I looked between them, “I’m going to need more explanation than that. Wait, what do you guys even do here?” Jonas broke the silence, “The short version? We’re basically Mulder and Scully. Except, you know, we’re all aliens.” I squinted my eyes at him to see whether he was joking. Frampton made a face, “Ew. Jonas you know I hate you using that word.” Jonas got defensive telling her that it was the truth no matter the world he used.

The Commander had been watching me, “Do you believe us?” This is what’s absolutely crazy, I undoubtedly believed what they were selling. I had questions but my answer to hers would remain the same, especially after studying Sherwood’s face, “Yes.” Nodding she was more serious than the others, I’m not sure she trusted me yet, “What is the question you want answered the most?” There were so many; Were they all the same species of alien? Was their human appearance cloaking technology? How were we in the middle of Oxford University? Did they come from the stars or were these people born on Earth? But one hung above all the others, even higher than wanting to know my real identity, “How do we find Valkyrie?” She smiled, and I got the distinct impression I had earned her approval for some reason.

A week went by, and in that time I had discovered these aliens were fourth generation Earthlings. Yes, I know how that sounds, believe me. It’s funny how quickly strange becomes the norm. Basically, their race, the Meliori, were sent to Earth by an interstellar omnipresent council – the Divine. There are several factions across the planet, and humans, for the most part, were completely unaware. Then there was me. They had no idea why Valkyrie was hunting me, but they vowed to keep me safe; the enemy of my enemy is my friend situation…at least until we trusted each other. As far as the Global Alliance could tell, Valkyrie was associated to a group of fringe extremists who believed I was valuable for bartering their way off the planet.

Two weeks after meeting the Meliori, I was looking out onto the expansive university campus. A view I would miss when I eventually left the confines of the base. It wasn’t the worst place to be sequestered away. I was learning so much about the alien technology and it felt like we were genuinely invested in each other’s lives. We had a common goal and for the first time in my life I found a sense of belonging.

My daydreaming thoughts were interrupted when Jonas and Sherwood came running in exclaiming, “We have something!” The rest of us gathered around as Sherwood frowned, “Wait, what do you have?” Jonas asked him the same in return and I rolled my eyes laughing, “Can one of you tell us what you found?” Sherwood looked proud and was savouring in our response, “We found Valkyrie. She was hiding in plain sight.” The mood shifted in the room. This was a real lead, the first one we had since I joined the investigation. Continuing Sherwood ran to the touch screen, “We finally cracked the encryption of the cipher. We were right and wrong. Valkyrie isn’t just a person, it’s a doctrine, a religion, and Valkyrie she’s one of the Anointed.”

I remembered Frampton telling me something about them, “Weren’t the Anointed the leaders of the Meliori? They were supposed to be touched by the Divine…and executed by them as punishment when you were banished, right?” The Commander confirmed it and asked who she was; the answer infuriated her and she whispered the name in contempt, “Adelina.” Apparently, Adelina was the reason this happened to the Meliori. They were stripped of their powers, their homes, their freedoms, all because her evil pushed the limits of forgiveness instilled by the Divine. Sherwood pulled up one of the encryptions. It read: The girl must be compelled into pleading to the Divine. If she cannot be compelled, we compel the Divine with her death.

Fantastic. Destined to die. Jonas scrunched up his face, “Oh, no…that makes more sense now.” God, that didn’t sound promising, “Why do I get the feeling that’s more bad news?” He shrugged awkwardly and moved to the screen for more show and tell, “Remember how I was trying to identify that marker in your blood?” Yes. I also remembered all the samples of blood I had given him in the previous fourteen days. Apologetically smiling at me when I unconsciously grabbed my arm he continued, “Well, I decided to look back at the original sample you gave when you arrived. It’s changed.” Yep, I was right, more bad news.

I was trying to find the words, but Sherwood asked instead, “What do you mean ‘changed’?” As it happened, my blood was actually doing something really cool to protect itself, it was mimicking the DNA of the Meliori. The cloak wore off over time which is how Jonas caught to trickery. But then I realised the giant elephant in the room, “Wait, what has it changed into exactly?”

Nervously checking if there was anyone else in earshot Jonas put his voice into a whisper, “That’s the thing. You’re not one of us, you’re one of them.” He couldn’t be more cryptic if he tried. The Commander had stiffened slightly, “One of whom?” Jonas was scared and only mouthed the words. Of course, none of us could read his lips and he frowned and leaned a bit further forward, “She’s not Meliori, she’s one of the Divine.”

Mind. Blown.

…And that brings us to today, exactly twenty-two days, three hours and five minutes since I met the Meliori. I’m standing next to Sherwood, Frampton, Blake and Johnson on a spaceship orbiting Earth. After uncovering who I really was, we were able to find more information about tales of a Divine child, the real reason the Meliori were sent to Earth. It wasn’t long before we were able to find the breadcrumbs in my minds eye that delivered us here.

I looked at Sherwood as a collective voice permeated our heads, “Welcome, Child of the Divine. We have been waiting for your arrival. You are ready for the next stage.” We were shown images that explained the entire story in graphic detail. It was all an elaborate plan to hide me from a much great enemy that should worry the entire universe. Not petty civil wars or scuffles for power but utter darkness, a vacuum of death…and I was the saving grace. The final imagery was of a weapon, yes, but not the one I had expected. Assumptions are the root of dangerous thinking because I thought I would be wielding a weapon. Turns out, I am the weapon, a conduit, and I must be sacrificed.

By Naomi Eleanor

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