City of Light

Submitted into Contest #55 in response to: Write a story about a meeting of a secret society.... view prompt

40 comments

Mystery Adventure

The streets of Paris were buzzing. Some called it the City of Light, but Nina wondered why New York City was The City That Never Sleeps instead. Of course, she had never been to New York, or even to America, but Nina knew that if there was ever a more vibrant, colorful city than the one she had just entered, it must be simply marvelous. Between the scents of the vendors and the beautiful language being spoken everywhere, the young girl felt at home instantly. 

Nina had moved recently from the countryside, which was beautiful in its own right, but not as much as where she was now. Here, Nina was someone. She mattered no more than the people around here did, and together, they created a city so beautiful, that it was the masterpiece of the painting that was France, Nina’s homeland. The crepes in her hands were warm and sweet, but the feeling transferred itself to her whole body as she took her first bite. 

“You gotta pay for that, y’know,” the old man vending crepes grunted. “This is a business, not a school cafeteria.” 

Nina stuttered. “Oh, uh, of course! Here. Keep the change.” She placed a few coins in the man’s hand, which seemed to satisfy him as he slipped them into his pocket. Nina scrunched her eyebrows as she looked towards the end of the cart. A strange painting sat there. It looked like it had been stretched out wrong. 

“What’s with that painting?” she asked, tilting her head slightly to the left. The man chuckled as he turned the edges of the crepe. “Things aren’t always as they appear, girl.” The man then proceeded to put a small cylindrical mirror on a wavy circle on the painting. As soon as he did, the painting clearly showed a small portrait of a girl in a frilly dress one might wear if they were wealthy in the 1800s’. Nina didn’t recognize it, but quickly realized the painting was a replica of some famous artist’s work. She wasn’t too focused on the arts, not outside of experiencing them. 

“It’s a cool trick, ain’t it?” the man said, with a sideways grin. “Good for sending messages, too.”

Nina furrowed her brow at that, but politely thanked the old man and went about the rest of her day, snacking on the delicious crepe that tasted like home. She would forget this conversation, but it would come back to haunt her later on in life, for this was Nina’s first encounter with a certain society little known to the rest of the world, but well known to the world Nina was soon to become a part of. 

And so, Nina began to walk away, quietly eating her crepe. That is, before the strange man turned back towards her. 

“Hey, you!” he said, grudginess in his tone. “Girl. Come back here-”

The man gestured towards the coins in his hand, seeming to imply that she hadn’t paid enough. 

“Aw, leave her alone, Jacques,” a young woman around Nina’s age said, sighing. “The girl’s just trying to eat her food.” 

“She short changed me, that’s what!” the man said. “And you guess what, Amelie, she was looking at the anamorphosis, too! So I told her it was good for sending messages, and-”

Nina's mind started to race. She had heard that word before. Anamorphosis. Anamorphosis. Anamorphosis.

Suddenly, Nina remembered. She remembered back in her mother’s old house in the countryside preparing dinner while her mother sat down to paint. She remembered her look of surprise when her mother finally put down her brushes, humming a familiar song. She remembered finally staring at the painting, and her surprise to see it so stretched out. 

“Mama, why’s your painting so weird?”

“It’s an anamorphosis, honey. It’s supposed to be that way.”

She remembered how her mother smiled as she ate her cooking, some soup made from whatever was in the pantry. Oh, what Nina would have given for another day like that, before her mother was taken from her. She missed her so much. 

Nina’s expression went rigid as her breaths came out faster and faster. She sighed and sighed, repeating little mantras to herself. 

“Woah, are you okay?” Amelie asked, walking towards Nina. “Jacques, what exactly did you say to her?”

The old man gave an exasperated sigh, barring his fists in anger. “I didn’t say anything; you’re the one who started it!”

Nina felt the panic taking over her body. She remembered that night so vividly, it was taking over her system. She remembered the weight on her shoulders, how much lighter it had been back then. She remembered the little song her mother was humming, each beat a little bit higher than the rest, and then a little bit lower. She remembered the wisps of smoke coming from the pot of soup and the faint breeze from the summer air. 

The beautiful smells in the streets that were once comforting now seemed unsettling and new. And suddenly, Nina couldn’t hang onto her pain any longer. She cried and she cried, thinking of her dear mother and the anamorphosis. That one good night before it all went downhill. 

Nina remembered her first night on the streets of Paris, and how unsettling it was. This wasn’t like the nice market she found herself in now, but it wasn’t bad, either. The busyness comforted Nina as she dealt with the tragedy that was her life now. It was pleasant. She could go with the flow. 

The air seemed to surround Nina as if it was giving her a warm hug - a hug full of beautiful scents and colors and people. But Nina knew it was nothing but harsh coldness underneath. She couldn’t stand it anymore as the tears poured out. For the first time in what felt like forever, Nina cried and she cried. 

“No,” she said, turning towards Amelie. “I’m not okay. I just... remembered something.”

And, just like that, the strong smells and warm air turned into memories as well. Memories of the dirt on the streets and the warmth of the city. Memories of her mother, her dear mother, who she missed so much. 

Amelie put her arm around Nina’s shoulder, wiping away her tears. Nina was tough, and wouldn't usually let a stranger so close, but something about Amelie felt familiar.

She reminded her a little of her mother, on the warm day, humming to herself, before she was taken away. Before the dark days of Nina’s life. She reminded her of back when she could smile. 

Amelie started to hum, a little tune where each note was a little higher than the others. The memories started to fade as Nina was brought back into reality. She noticed that they had passed a few blocks as the smells of fresh bread and crepes were now replaced by the smells of cutlets and steaks. 

“How-how do you know that song?”

“Once, my mother sang it to me. It was meant to calm you. I’m sorry if I imposed…”

In the background, Jacques grunted something about the waste of the crepe Nina had inevitably dropped and how they really didn’t need yet another kid with them.

“It’s for our group, kid. The Violet Society. You ever heard of ‘em?”

Nina shook her head, still overwhelmed. 

“I know that song,” she said. “My mother used to hum that while she painted paintings like the one at your stand.”

Jacque gave a knowing nod. “She must be one of us, then. I guess that makes you a part of the family, stranger.”

Amelie rolled her eyes. “Jacques, don’t act like you suddenly care now that she’s a ‘part of the family.” Still, however, curiosity shined through her faint smile. 

“Was,” Nina corrected, solemnly. The memories were now silent, like the whispers of the wind. A sudden cold breeze blew away Nina’s long hair. It was dirty from the streets, but only when you got a good look at it. From a distance, it just looked dark as the night sky. “She’s dead now.”

It wasn’t the first time Nina had spoken those words, but it felt like it. Each time she said it, the heaviness in her chest increased. Each time she said it, she felt it in her heart. 

“Who are you guys, anyway?” the now broken Nina asked, a shiver going down her spine as she realized what a scary situation she had gotten herself in. 

Amelie frowned. “I’m very sorry to hear that.” Then she smiled again. “Like Jacques said, we’re part of the Violet Society.”

“The Violet Society?”

“Yeah. We regulate order, pretty much, all around the world through various means.” Here, Amelie stopped and looked at Jacques. “We don’t often pick up people from the streets, though. But you seem different from them. Jacques’s right - you've already got a connection to us.”

 Nina frowned and furrowed her brow again. “I-”

“You’ll figure it out.” Amelie stated, with a simple smile. “Look, we’re here.”

Somehow, through all the swirling memories of her past, and the talking of her future, Nina and her new friends ended up near the entrance to what appeared to be a dark tunnel. 

Amelie looked towards Nina. “It’s alright. Don’t be afraid.”

But Nina remembered this place, as well. Not the place itself, but the feeling she got from it. The cold darkness surrounding her, just like the scented air, was full of memories. Memories Nina didn’t want to remember. 

She remembered the cold feeling when she was young of her mother leaving her at home to go somewhere. She remembered following her through a dark and dreary ally, until she couldn’t hold it in anymore and cried. She remembered her mother turning around and looking to see her behind her, and the warmth she got as she walked back home. It was a funny kind of warmth. Chilly, almost. 

“I know this place.” She said, being encapsulated by memories, memories surrounding her, choking her in their bitterness. 

“You might know a different spot,” said Amelie. “We meet at different locations within the catacombs of the city. And other places outside of it.”

Nina nodded quietly, as Jacques opened the door. The buzzing of people talking became more and more apparent.

“Quiet down,” said Amelie, reducing the noise significantly. “This is-”

“Nina,” said Nina, realizing she had never given her rescuers her name.

“Well, Nina,” an old man said. “I’m Onyx. Are you ready for your first mission?”

(Authors note: Yes, this is in the same universe as The Secret of the Violets).

August 17, 2020 16:00

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40 comments

22:29 Aug 26, 2020

Fantastic job!! I love the names Amelie and Onyx!

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Maya W.
23:28 Aug 26, 2020

Thank you! I spend wayy too much time on names, haha.

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☆ Ariadne ☆
03:07 Oct 02, 2020

I can tell! They're beautiful names!

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Doubra Akika
16:18 Aug 19, 2020

Wow, Maya! I'm glad I checked out your story. I didn't notice any grammar errors reading. If there were any, they weren't glaring. I love how you gave the story a backstory like how it had to do with her mum (the secret society). I've never heard of an anamorphosis but I think it sounded cool. Overall, I think your story was fantastic. Please continue writing! God bless you and stay safe!

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Maya W.
16:49 Aug 19, 2020

Wow, thanks! I definitely will keep writing, haha.

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Doubra Akika
19:57 Aug 19, 2020

You definitely should😁!

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01:41 Aug 28, 2020

The imagery is great. I almost felt like I was in the city of Paris. You really invoked all the senses, including aroma, which is frequently ignored. The story seemed unfinished, It was almost a teaser for a much longer story, even a novel. I really want to know what happens next,

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Maya W.
01:49 Aug 28, 2020

Thanks so much for reading! I try really hard to describe the settings well because I think one of the best feelings in the world is when a story transports you somewhere. I wrote another story in this universe, if you want to know a little bit more, It's called The Secret of the Violets. In fact, if you can, would you check out some of my other stories on this site in general? Thanks!

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Keerththan 😀
06:01 Aug 27, 2020

Amazing story. Onyx , the name sounded like a Pokemon. Wonderful story for the prompt. Well written. Would you mind reading my new story "The adventurous tragedy?"

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Maya W.
10:22 Aug 27, 2020

Sure thing! Thanks for reading!

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Lynn Penny
15:46 Aug 24, 2020

This was awesome! Great continuation in the same universe, and I tots love the name Onyx!

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Maya W.
15:48 Aug 24, 2020

Thanks!

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Yolanda Wu
02:42 Aug 23, 2020

I loved your description of the cities at the beginning and how you subtly revealed things about Nina through that. Again, the writing is beautiful! Wonderful story. :)

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Maya W.
02:46 Aug 23, 2020

Thanks so much! I try, haha.

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Thom Brodkin
23:27 Aug 22, 2020

Fantastic. I love how you wove this into the same universe. Will there be more. I want to know about the Violet society. Great job. Great story.

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Maya W.
23:33 Aug 22, 2020

Thank you! I'm not sure, I've been writing different characters in the same universe for a while now, but I'm not sure if I'll post them or not.

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Thom Brodkin
23:36 Aug 22, 2020

If you looking for votes I vote yes. 😀

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Maya W.
23:36 Aug 22, 2020

Haha, thanks!

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Deborah Angevin
11:46 Aug 21, 2020

Suspenseful story! I love the inclusion of the country/city at the beginning of the story too! P.S: would you mind checking out my recent submission, "Yellow Light?" Thank you :D

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Maya W.
14:44 Aug 21, 2020

Sure, thank you!

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Mollie Rodgers
04:24 Aug 21, 2020

Ooh, The Violet Society. The name alone grabs me. Very cool story. I love the image of this street vendor late at night under Parisian lights revealing the hidden image of a girl in outdated clothing. I'm a sucker for hidden messages :) There are so many places to go with this story.

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Maya W.
14:45 Aug 21, 2020

Thank you! I read about anamorphosises and thought they were cool, lol.

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Maya W.
14:49 Aug 21, 2020

OMG, I JUST SAW THAT YOU WON! Congrats, you totally deserved it!!!!

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Gopika Ashokan
12:15 Aug 20, 2020

Hey! This was so good. I love the starting where you describe the connection that Nina feels with the city. It's beautiful. Also, the suspence is great. I enjoyed reading this piece. Thanks for writing!

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Maya W.
16:23 Aug 20, 2020

Thanks for the feedback!

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Vicky S
06:51 Aug 20, 2020

Hi Maya,I really enjoyed your story. I thought it was very well written

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Maya W.
07:16 Aug 20, 2020

Thank you!

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Shreya S
04:51 Aug 20, 2020

Great story! Very well written :) Also, I see you’re a Cassie fan! Me too! The shadowhunter world is evERYTHING. Tell me if you want to join a discord- it’s really good like you can be a iron sister, silent brother, warlock, shadowhunter, anything really and there’s quite a lot of people in it.

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Maya W.
05:08 Aug 20, 2020

Ooh, cool! Yeah, I’d love to join!

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03:19 Aug 20, 2020

The kind of mystery story I like!!

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Maya W.
05:27 Aug 20, 2020

Thanks!

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Kristin Neubauer
02:43 Aug 20, 2020

Ooooo...a very mysterious and suspenseful story. I love it! I really liked at the beginning how you captured Nina's transition from country to city - there was so much sensory information in there that I could really feel the transition. And from there, the story flowed so beautifully - your story actually kind of felt like a painting, with so many colors and characters and flow. Great job, Maya!

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Maya W.
05:07 Aug 20, 2020

Wow, that was kinda exactly what I was going for! Thank you!

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☆ Ariadne ☆
03:08 Oct 02, 2020

I love French anything, and this was no exception! I recently wrote a story based on France (ish) that you commented on and wow. My story does not compare to this. Well done! ~Ria

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Maya W.
12:36 Oct 02, 2020

Aww, thanks! I think your story was better, lol, but thanks!

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☆ Ariadne ☆
17:29 Oct 02, 2020

You're so sweet! Thank you! :)

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Batool Hussain
04:22 Aug 20, 2020

Good story. Also, I see from your profile that you're a fan of Cassandra Clare. Are you because...same!

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Maya W.
05:08 Aug 20, 2020

Haha, yep. Huge shadowhunter nerd here. And thank you!

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Pragya Rathore
17:54 Aug 20, 2020

Oh my GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Too many exclamation marks, right? But I'm so glad to meet fans of CC. I had no idea you were one, Batool! This is awesome! Like a dream getting realized :)

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Batool Hussain
04:41 Aug 21, 2020

Haha!

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