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Adventure Drama Mystery

Eyes brown as the nearby lake, his gaze wandered down the streets of downtown, lingering only a few seconds on each shop. He walked with a stride in his step, dancing between the lines of confident and overzealous. Neatly combed back hair and blindingly white clothing set him apart from everyone else, caught stares and unwanted attention.

Elixa’s eyes were on him from the comfort of her seat at Flino’s, warming her hands on the black coffee. He stuck out like a sore thumb from the rest of them, any passerby could see that clearly. The older’s looks were glares, but the young ones like Elixa either looked away or could not take their eyes off of him.

She fought the urge to get up and talk to him, to hear what his voice sounded like. To know what he was thinking, to walk into her town. Her mother would throw a fuss if Elixa were to indulge in such an action, would remind her not to get attached.

“Where do they go?” Elixa once asked, curled up on her bed with a hand-knitted blanket. The wool was itchy, but she wouldn’t even think about complaining. Especially if she was going to play detective with her mother.

With a tsk of her tongue her mother shook her head. “We do not speak of such things.” She ran her calloused hands through Elixa’s hair. “You’ll learn when you’re old enough.”

“But I’m old enough now.” Elixa whined, but was aware it would get her nowhere. Her mother refused to respond to annoying pleading, opting to teach her daughter how to behave like an adult at an early age. And while mannerisms and politeness could be taught, personality would not be changed.

So while her mother would immediately scold Elixa for the temptation to discover this new strange man, she could not stifle her desire. In fact, the mere prohibition of it made it more daunting. 

So she stood, brushing off crumbs from her brown sagging shirt, and patted down her frizzy hair. “Elixa,” Her mother protested. “What in Hillsville do you think you are doing?”

Before her mother could talk her out of it, she jumped the wire fence from the patio and into the street. Without the awning to shade her, the sun was hot on her back. While the strange man had an odd one-sided hat, she had nothing to protect her eyes.

“Excuse me?” Elixa’s voice was weak and croaky, but it got the attention of the man either way. He turned around, and smiled when his eyes landed on her. A shiver ran down her back, a pleasant one. She found herself frozen in place, staring at him.

He was beautiful, in an odd way. His skin was white and unblemished, not brown like everybody else she had met. She fought the urge to touch him, to drink in every sense she could get from this newcomer. “How can I help you?” 

Elixa fought the urge to pass out on the spot, but then the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity would fade away to her bleak old life. “Uh.” She stuttered, blushing profusely. “I’m Elixa.”

“Elixa.” He tried the word on his tongue, sounding luxurious. His accent was unlike anything she had ever heard before, deep and throaty. She wished she had it recorded on a record, to replay over and over again. But the recording company up north would never allow her to waste a record, and her mother would throw a fit if Elixa even considered leaving.

“What’s your name?” She stammered. Why must she be so awkward, when this is the only new person she may meet for the years to come?

He gave a small smile, and shifted his weight to put his hands in his pockets. “I’m Jonah.”

Elixa inhaled sharply at the sight of her mother pushing her way out of the fence and into the street. She considered herself above Elixa’s tricks, she would never be seen jumping over a fence. Nor would she allow her daughter to consort with an outsider. 

“They do something to new people.” She rushed through her words, very aware of her mother’s approaching. His face furrowed into immediate worry. 

“What?”

“They- they disappear. I don’t know. I don’t want you to disappear.” Her mother grabbed her arm and yanked her back. But Elixa managed to hold her ground for a few moments. “Get out of here!” She yelled before her mother hissed for her to stop.

“I don’t understand-” He looked wildly around, trying in vain to conceal his panic. “Elixa, wait!” 

Her mother didn’t stop, instead firmly guided a struggling Elixa away. She could not even turn to look at him one last time before she was pulled into an alley between the stores. “Hey!” Elixa yelled.

“Don’t you dare raise your voice at me.” Her mother’s voice was filled with so much anger and fear, chills ran down into her bones. She had never seen her mother so overwhelmed with emotion, her hand’s shaking. “You could have been hurt, you didn’t know anything about him! What if he was holding a knife below his cloak?”

“He was nice! His name’s Jonah and-”

“What else did he tell you? He has lemondrops by his house just around the corner?” Her mother crossed her arms. 

Elixa sighed dramatically, ignoring her mother's obvious displeasure at her carelessness. “I already know everything and everyone here, I was curious! And not every stranger intends to kidnap me.”

“Elixa there are things you do not know. And that is the direct result of my interference.”A scream echoed from the courtyard, and Elixa turned toward it. The sound was quickly muffled, and her mother turned her face back towards her. 

Shrugging away, Elixa glared. “Mom, I’m sixteen. Whatever you’re protecting me from I can handle it.” 

“And still at sixteen you are too immature to conduct yourself in public!” Her voice rose to a shriek. “Do you know how embarrassing you were? You’re all anyone will be able to talk about for days!”

“You are insufferable. He was the only interesting thing to happen for months! And what is the big deal with newcomers anyway? Why do they disappear?”

“Oh, now you consider everything I’ve taught you! Now you start asking questions instead of running off on a whim!” Her mother worked herself into a frenzy, waving her arms in the air as she spoke. “Don’t you think there’s a reason you don’t know these things? It’s because of me, and all my hard work!”

Elixa rolled her eyes. “Oh, so it’s all your doing I don’t know what goes on in this town. Gee, thanks.”

Another scream made her turn, and instead of allowing her mother to redirect her attention again, she glared and stormed out of the alley. Her mother chastised her, trying in vain to reach stubborn Elixa. Begging her to stop and reconsider.

Diving out of the alley, Elixa didn’t know what she expected to see. But nothing could have been worse than the scene in front of her. 

Tears pricked at her eyes, and she couldn’t focus on anything but the limp body being carried away. A bloody knife glistened in the sunlight, it’s blade being cleaned by the waitress at Flino’s. In mere minutes everything had returned to normal, as if nothing had even happened. But Elixa could not forget what she witnessed, and it kept replaying in her head like a symphony.

Her mother grabbed her shoulders too late, pulled her away in vain from the event haunting Elixa. “What, why, how…” She mumbled to herself, she was aware something was fishy with the way newcomers were treated, but she never imagined something as gruesome as murder.

All eyes were on her, and Elixa fought the strong urge to throw up. “I don’t understand - what just happened?” She managed to choke out. “He was just alive and now-”

“She didn’t know about the policy?” A familiar voice asked from behind her. Gerold, the nut job baker. The question wasn’t targeted at Elixa, but she couldn’t help but respond with contempt.

“Is that what you are excusing this murder as? A policy? What kind of law-” 

Elixa was quickly cut off by her mother. “I was waiting until she was old enough.” She defended herself, but the stares from the townspeople got under her mother’s skin.

“Lucy learned when she was four years old. Y’all must be living under a rock or something.” Gerold gave a throaty laugh, oblivious to the absolute terror running through Elixa’s veins. 

She swiveled around to her mother, ignoring his snide remarks. “How could you not tell me about this?” Turning to where Jonah had stood just minutes before, Elixa held back her tears. The shock was wearing off, replaced by a deep dread in the pit of her stomach.

“We need to go home.” Her mother’s voice was sharp, the one she used when Elixa whined or cried in public. The kind dipped in a veiled threat of punishment if she did not comply. But Elixa was finished with her putting off, still terrified and running on pure adrenaline. 

Turning to the townspeople, who were either sipping their coffee like usual or engrossed in the conflict between her and her mother, Elixa snapped. “I have known you all my entire life. And never have I been so disgusted by an utter act of evil.” Her mother grabbed her arm, but Elixa did not stop. “What did he do to you? Nothing! He was just wandering around our streets. We should welcome him with open arms, get to know him and invite him into our homes. Instead we kill him? And none of you even raise a finger to stop it?”

“Furthermore, if this happens every time a new visitor comes, why has nobody objected? Are you all insane? Have you no morals?” Elixa was unnerved by the calm looks on their faces, not one of them was opposed to murdering the newcomer. No remorse. Were the people she grew up with heartless?

“Enough!” Felicity Hill stood, her face twisted with fury. Elixa knew her as the mayor’s wife, always calm and composed next to her husband. But the woman who ran the graduate ceremony was not the same woman who faced her at Flino’s on that hot afternoon.

“Your ranting has gone on quite enough. Bianca, you must get your ambitious daughter under control.” Elixa didn’t know what she had said to offend Felicity enough to make her drop her cool demeanor. Everything she had mentioned was based on the questionable ethics of killing someone- who could disagree?

Her mother’s strong fingers gripped her shoulders, and Elixa could not squirm out of her grasp. “What is wrong with you people?” She yelled, before her mother pinched her skin and forced her away. 

When they arrived back at their house, her mother was struggling to keep calm. No matter how many times she counted to ten and splashed her face with water, she could not escape the utter embarrassment and anger plaguing her. “How could you?” She spoke, her voice bitter. 

“You have to understand what they did was despicable! You can’t agree with them.” Elixa made the mistake of phrasing it as a fact rather than a question. Because the look her mother pierced her with spoke for itself. She did support the “Policy” and Elixa suggesting otherwise was highly offensive. 

All her mother cared about was her image. “We will be blacklisted from the community- you are a disgrace! I did not raise you this way.”

“What’s so wrong with being blacklisted from a town of murderers?” Elixa fired back, putting her hands on her hips in disgust. “I don’t know why you even support them!”

“The newcomers are a threat to all of Hillsvill. Everybody understands the importance, and you will come to accept it too.” Her voice wavered, and her mother looked down at the wood tabletop. 

Elixa made no such effort to conceal her feelings. “And if I don’t? What happens then?”

Her mother closed her eyes and sighed. “Then you are a threat too.”

“Great. If I don’t agree with murder, I’ll be killed too. What kind of sick game is this?” Elixa debated throwing her mother’s flower vase at the wall, but opted not to. Likely she would be the one to clean it up anyway. 

“Elixa I know how strongly you are opposed to this, but I don’t want you hurt.” Her mother was very obviously pained, and a sliver of guilt panged Elixa’s chest. But it wasn’t enough to make her stay. She was in a gang with murderers, and Elixa was just trying to get out.

Glaring, Elixa picked up her sachet and swung it over her shoulders. “I can’t live somewhere, when I know everybody around me supports the murder of innocent people.”

“You don’t have any other choice.” Her mother’s face darkened as Elixa pack her satchel with apples and bread. “You’re not serious.”

“Dead serious.” Elixa smiled sadly at her dark joke. “I can’t even pretend I’m okay with this. And if someone is going to kill me for my opinion, I may as well skip town before it happens.”

Her mother just nodded in a silent understanding, her face softening. Elixa was too ambitious for this town, she would eventually leave to discover more. It wasn’t supposed to be so soon, and yet it was the last chance she had. The citizens of Hillsvill learned she was opposed to the Policy, and therefore she was in danger. Her maternal drive to protect Elixa was stronger than her duty to the town.

So she did not object as Elixa put on her leather shoes and gave her a tight squeeze. Though she had done bad things, she made the right decision in allowing Elixa to leave. But Bianca was still loyal to the mayor of Hillsville, content nestled in between mountains and sheltered from the world. She had built a life there, and Elixa wouldn’t even ask for her mother to leave.

“All of the newcomers come from north, after a few miles you should come across a path. It will be black and new. You must follow it until you make it to the city.” Bianca whispered the words to Elixa, knowing if even one other person heard her she would be killed for her betrayal. 

Elixa hugged her mother, whispered her thanks, and exited the little house. Heading north, she marched toward the path between the mountains, ready for her first adventure.

September 13, 2020 23:56

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