Control [short story]

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I wrote this when I was 15, and it won a Moderator’s Choice on Elfwood — one of the most exciting things to ever happen to me during my teenage years. I’ve decided to post it in its original, award-winning (snerk), form, for old time’s sake.

I’m honestly really embarrassed by this, so do me a favor and don’t read it.


It’s strange, how you never think you will become the subject of discrimination. When I was a child, such a thing happening to me never crossed my mind. I never thought that my existence would be confined by a barbed wire fence. I remember how it all started, as clearly as if it had been engraved into my mind. I’m one of the few who can wield the power of magic, and for that reason alone I was hated and despised.

It took the scouts a year after my power had manifested itself to find me. That year was strangely wonderful, even though it was tainted by fear, even though my mother died.

Soft rain splattered against the window from the gray sky. My mother turned her pale face toward me when I opened the door.

“Come here, Amaya. I want to talk to you.”

I walked over and she took my hand, pressing something hard into it.

“Mother?”

“I want you to keep this with you for always. Remember me by it. It may help you some day.”

“Yes, Mom.” Tears blurred my vision, and I clutched the object harder. Her face turned back to the window and I quietly slipped out of the room. It was then that I opened my hand and looked at the black stone ring she had given me. My fingers closed around it once again.

My mother died that night.

***

I winced as the car door slammed behind me. A heavy hand rested on my shoulder, steering me toward a small stone building; a train station. Faces watched me from various benches. Some were obviously prisoners like myself. My finger touched the metal collar around my neck, and I immediately drew back in pain.

The man in gray smiled down at me, and his hand tightened on my shoulder. I held my head up high. He may have received the satisfaction of blocking me from my magic, but he would never break my spirit.

I winced again as the door closed behind me, and I sat down on a plastic chair in the train station as the man had directed me. My fingers closed around the stone ring that hung around my neck as I listened to him answer questions about me.

“Name?” the register questioned mechanically.

“Amaya Kore.” my guardian answered.

The rodent of a man writing down the answers looked up, then gave me an accusing look. “Spelling?”

“A-m-a-y-a,” I answered automatically, then shrank back as my captor took a step toward me.

“Age?”

“Fourteen.”

“Sex-female, obviously. Eyes?”

“Hazel.”

I listened to question after question. I was shocked. He knew everything about me.

When they were finished, the man took me outside and we sat at an empty spot on a bench, waiting.

The train rolled to a stop, and a moment later I stepped out in a small crowd. I saw my guard standing by others clad in the gray uniform, but he showed no sign of acknowledgment or recognition. In a swarming mass, we began walking down a dusty path, to where most of us would spend the rest of our lives.

My first view of Camp Mages set the tone of my entire stay. A barbed wire fence ran around a large brown lot with several small gray buildings in the center. People toiled inside the fence, and to my surprise, none of them wore the collar I did. It was then I noticed the electric glow around the entire place. Technology was used to block magic.

A tall, stern looking man, standing by a shorter, harsh-faced man and a sharply beautiful woman at the gate surveyed us, then spoke. “Welcome to Mages. You have a choice, enter these gates on your own free will, or continue down the road.” A few shifted, but no one moved. It was up to me.

Head held high, I began walking. Two other girls broke from the group and walked by my side. The thrill of sheer defiance rushed through me in a flash flood, then was gone.

My feet slowed, and the girls passed me. A deep feeling of dread overcame me, and despite my best efforts, I could not keep moving. My feet stopped, and I became very aware of the ground. My eyes traveled to the road that the girls were about to walk on. It was slightly discolored. I tried to cry out, to warn them, but I couldn’t make a sound. A vise constricted around my throat. I watched as the ground gave away beneath them, and the girls disappeared from sight.

“You made the right choice.” It was my guard. His voice was somber. Numbly I turned around and walked through the gate, of my own free will.

***

“Keep moving!” The woman dressed in gray walked up to me, holding a cane. I hefted my stone and looked at her flatly.

“Making us carry rocks back and forth is completely useless, just like your job.”

“You!” she shrieked, raising the cane. Automatically I stepped back and dropped the rock. It crashed right onto the woman’s foot. She hopped up and down, screaming. After a second she seemed to remember me, and what I had done. “Get her!” A man, a magic-supporter by his lack of the gray uniform, grabbed hold of me and forced me to stand with my back to the woman.

Blows fell across my back. I gritted my teeth, but kept my head high. The man moved his lips to form the word ‘sorry’, and his eyes shone with sorrow.

When the woman grew tired, she seized my long, light brown hair and dragged me along the rocky ground. I realized the reason of our exercise; we were clearing the ground. I stumbled and fell, but she never stopped pulling.

Somehow I made it to the guard station, a little building close to the main dormitories and work rooms, and the woman threw me down just inside the door. She rushed into a back room. Left to myself, I rose to a sitting position. My fingers closed around the cold ring around my neck. I cried inside.

“Well, young miss,” I heard as I jumped to my feet and stared the High Officer in the eye. “I hear you have been causing trouble.”

“It is nothing compared to what you did to me.”

“You must be here. You must be blocked. Technology must prevail over magic.”

“Only in your mind are they competing.”

“You have quite the attitude, young miss. From now on you will work in the furnace rooms.”

***

The heavy metal door slammed behind me and I winced. The room was sweltering hot from the giant fire that heated the entire building and supplied electricity to the camp. A sweaty young man, about seventeen with extremely dark brown hair and brilliant green eyes stood up and looked me over. The young woman beside him, who looked to be just a little bit younger than the man, gave me a disapproving look with gray eyes and flicked her medium long black hair as she turned to the only window.

“I’m Sebastian, and this is Alex.” He motioned to the woman. “We are your supervisors. Just throw coal on the fire when it burns low.”

“Magic-supporters, by lack of uniforms,” I commented, looking sulkily at the heaps of coal.

“Uh, yeah. This job gets really boring, just so you are warned.”

Head held high, I walked over and took a seat on a bench, big enough for only one.

“Excuse me, but what do you think you’re doing?” Alex turned and looked at me, the fire reflecting in her eyes.

“Sitting.”

“Well, that’s my spot.”

“Well, I don’t care.”

“No wonder you’re down here! Move!”

“You’ll have to make me.” Alex grabbed hold of my arm, and Sebastian grabbed hers.

“Give her a break.” He looked intensly into Alex’s eyes. “It’s her first day here.”

“Fine! I’ll let the girl sit there, but only for today.”

“That’s all I’m asking. The fire needs more fuel,” Sebastian sighed, running his fingers through his hair.

I met his gaze and didn’t move. “I have a name.”

“Yes, of course you do. The fire?”

“I would prefer it if you referred to me by my name.”

“And we will, once you do your job.”

I stood up and began chucking the coal on the fire. Black coal dust flew into the air and settled on me, coating me.

“That’s enough.”

I kept on.

“I said that’s enough!”

“I’m doing my job; my name?”

“Uh–”

“That’s right. You don’t know my name. Sebastian. You never asked.”

“That girl is on my nerves already.” Alex sat down on the bench and gave me a haughty look, folding her arms.

I stopped and looked Sebastian fully in the eye. “It’s Amaya.”

“Amaya, right.” He turned and sat down on a clean spot on the floor.

I took a seat, disregarding the dirt, and leaned against the warm wall, slowly but surely roasting.

“I’m gone for a day, and you bring some foul creature here.”

I gave a start and blinked at the black cat.

“Speak up. What’s your name?”

“A-Amaya. You?”

“Ki.” She purred and rubbed against my arm, then went over to Sebastian, who scratched behind her ears.

“You can talk,” I said stupidly, still taken back by the revelation.

“Can’t we all?” She hopped up to the window and settled down.

“You have work,” Alex sniffed irritably.

I forced a smile as I stood up and began shoveling the hated coal.

“I get it. She’s your new slave. I thought you two were magic-supporters.”

“She isn’t our slave, and we are magic-supporters. We do believe this sort of treatment to those who can wield magic is wrong. But our orders were to make her do all the work. We are just as much prisoners as she is.”

“And you still don’t refer to me by my name.” I dusted my arms and returned to my spot on the floor.

“You should be nice to Amaya. I like her.” Ki jumped down and settled in my lap.

“Very well . . . very well.”

As the days passed, my life became routine. Everything was the same, and it was getting to me. I felt as though I was slowly fading out of existence.

Pale moonlight fell across the mat that served as my bed in the dorm. I lay there, my eyes locked on the small window, my hand closed around the ring my mother had given me. Slowly, distractedly, my fingers felt along its hard surface. I slipped it on for the first time, then took it off and felt along the inside. Words were carved into the stone. Angling the ring to catch the moonlight, I read the tiny inscription.

Control is lost, control is found, it must be free to make the world go round.”

“What does that mean?” I whispered silently to myself.

The riddle of the ring tortured me, more so than the monotonous life I had led. Sleep would not come at night, and by day I was silent. The answer evaded my mind, till one night I had a dream in one of those rare snatches of sleep.

I was standing in my home, looking out a window at the gloomy sky.

“But how can you do this to me? To us?”

I turned around and saw my mother, her hand on my father’s arm. My father. I watched them with interest, drifting closer. It was a vision of the past.

“I can’t stay here; I believe in this. Where is Amaya?”

My mother glanced at a clock. “She’s on her way home from school. Please, stay. I don’t want you to go.”

“Tell her goodbye for me.” My father bent over and picked up two suitcases in each hand.

“How will I provide for us?” my mother cried out in desperation.

“You’ll manage.” He opened up the door and faded as another figure took his place. It was me.

“Mom, where’s Dad? I thought I saw him.”

“Your father had to leave.” Exhausted, my mother sank into a chair.

“When will he be back?”

“He’s not coming back.”

Everything blackened and the dream jumped, as they often do. I found myself in another rainy day, watching the younger me in my room. My breath caught when I realized what day it was.

With an expression of fear and excitement, the younger me stretched out her hand, and a book flew to it. Clutching the book, she nervously peeked out of her room, then crossed the hall and knocked on a door.

“Come in,” my mother called with her weak voice. The younger me opened the door and entered as I passed through the wall. My mother’s poor, pale face haunted me, and saddened my heart. The younger me shifted rather nervously, then spoke.

“I have magic.”

I swam in blackness, searching for something. I could not find what I was looking for, and it broke my heart. Just when I was about to give up, I heard my mother’s voice, strong and clear.

“Control is lost, control is found, it must be free to make the world go round.”

“Control is lost,” I repeated, “control is found, it must be free to make the world go round. Magic, I have magic!”

I bolted upright as lightning flashed in the sky. My hand closed around the ring, which felt warm. I slipped it onto my finger.

“Magic,” I whispered. “Magic must be free. I have magic.” Thunder cut through the sound of raindrops.

Testing, I held out my hand. The ring grew hot, and my shoes flew to me. My magic was free. I was free.

It was a new day. I was free. For the first time, the morning sunlight was cheerful. I actually smiled as I entered the furnace room.

“You seem happy today. What’s up?” Ki rubbed against my leg and looked up at me with her orange eyes.

“I don’t know,” I lied. This was my secret.

“You’re late. Get to work. We have an inspection today.”

“What?!” The smile fled from my face and I stared at Alex.

“You heard me.”

“Heck, I hate these inspections.” Sebastian rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Amaya, please try to show a little respect and hang low.”

I stiffened my chin and thrust my nose into the air, but after a moment I relaxed. “All right, I’ll try.”

Sebastian was greatly relieved. “ Thank you. I’ll take this load of coal for you, sit down.”

“Stop that! Sebastian, I keep telling you we shouldn’t go against our orders and help her.”

“What they don’t know can’t hurt us.”

“But–!”

“Relax, Alex. I doubt anything will happen.” Ki stretched out then curled up.

“Alex has a point,” I spoke. “It would be safer if I did the work, just for today.”

Sebastian finished and sat in his spot. “Just for today.”

“Announcing the High Order.”

I stood respectfully as three people filed into the room.

“It’s rather hot in here; dirty too,” The woman waved her hand in front of her face.

“Sad looking bunch, but what can one expect from such lowlifes?” One of the men commented, looking around at us.

I gritted my teeth, biting back all the words that wanted to come. The second man just stared at me.

“You’ve been making the magic-user do all the work?” the woman questioned Sebastian.

“Yes, in accordance with our orders.”

Why was he looking at me?

“I think he’s lying.”

“You always think the prisoners are lying.”

“They are dirty, lowlife rats. They can’t be trusted.”

What could he want?

“They are too broken to lie. They know the punishment.”

“What?!” I blurted out, turning fully to the silent man.

The others looked at me.

“You weren’t given permission to speak.”

“I know that! Why is he staring at me?”

“Amaya, Amaya Kore,” the man finally spoke.

“Yes, that’s my name. Why are you looking at me?”

“Beat her, then give her no food for a few days.”

“But I didn’t do anything to deserve that. I just spoke out of turn.” A desperate tone crept into my voice.

“That’s hardly fair. Give her a break.” Sebastian stepped forward.

“It’s none of your business. Come with me.” He reached forward to grab my arm. I stepped back, grabbing hold of the black ring around my neck and slipping it on.

“Magic! I have magic! You can’t make me!” The three members of the High Order froze, held there by my power. I ran past them into the hall.

I ran through the maze of corridors, slowly making my way to the outside. If I could just get to the outside, then I could fly over the fence, and once out there I would be free. Alarms chased me everywhere I went, screaming at my escape. I turned a corner and paused to catch my breath, then heard the sickening sound of footsteps. A door, there was a door on the other side of the corridor. I ran to it and tugged at the handle. It was locked. I stretched out my finger and it clicked. Wrenching the door open, I rushed into the room. My ear pressed to the closed door as I listened to the heavy footsteps on the other side.

A hand touched my shoulder.

My heart froze as I saw the gray sleeve. Reluctantly, I looked into the face.

It was a guard, my guardian.

“Please don’t turn me in,” I begged.

He just stood there, silently looking at me. Something tugged at my heart, some vague recognition that faded as quickly as it had come.

“Please! I don’t want to go back. I don’t want to be blocked again. Please, I beg of you.” Hot tears formed in my eyes.

“You’ll get out faster if you go through that door.” He moved to the side, revealing a door on the other side of the room.

“Thank you,” I whispered, and walked to the door.

The hallway on the other side was empty, and at one end was a door with a window cut into it. Sunlight streamed in through the window.

Exhausted, I leaned back against a solitary tree and closed my eyes, wishing I had some food and water.

“Amaya!”

I opened my eyes and saw Sebastian running toward me with a very large sack. I was dreaming.

Alex appeared, and a little figure close to the ground I supposed was Ki. Alex also had a large bag. The sun was too hot for me to be sleeping. This was a hallucination.

“Amaya!”

He was closer now. I closed my eyes again. Too bad he wasn’t real. At least I was free.

“Amaya.” Someone touched my cheek. I reached up and touched the hand, savoring the moment.

A cool, moist bottle touched my lips, and I drank eagerly. The bottle was taken away before my thirst was truly quenched. I yearned for more.

“Open your eyes, Amaya.”

Slowly I obeyed, blinking to focus them. There was Sebastian, smiling at me. He was real.

“Sebastian,” I croaked. Once again he put the water bottle to my lips. When it was empty, I spoke again. “How?”

“We were freed, Amaya. A man named Kore set us free.”

A soft, furry thing jumped into my lap and purred. I stroked Ki’s sweet head. Something told me that name had some significance, but I couldn’t remember what.

“So you’re alive.”

I smiled at Alex, who shifted around. Sebastian pressed a chunk of bread into my hands that he had taken from the bag he had flung onto the ground. He then helped me to my feet.

“Come on Amaya, let’s go home. We’re free.”

2 comments

    1. I was already taking creative writing classes at that point, and my teacher had helped me with editing this story. It still reads like a teenager wrote it, though.

      Liked by 1 person

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