Chapter XXV:

Heather Meets An Important Person

As soon as she stepped out into the metal corridor beyond the chamber, curved at the ceiling just like the chamber had been, the door hissed shut behind her. There was a short, electronic clicking noise of a deadbolt clasping into place.

Heather looked to her left, then she looked to her right. In either direction, as far as she could see, the metal corridor continued into a vague vanishing point. There were doors in the walls and hallway openings spaced at regular intervals.

She was dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved T-shirt, barefoot, and the odorless corridor, metal on the floor as well as the ceiling, was cool and unforgiving. There was a tube of white lighting fixed into the tapering point of the ceiling above her.

“Which way should I go?” she asked aloud. “I know that you can hear me.”

There was no response.

She thought again of the sun-orb creatures, and the one with the stethoscope that had been attending to her, and she shuddered. Surely one or more of these creatures could be found in a hallway or behind the doors. She could feel them watching her.

Having decided that there had to be a plan either way, Heather went down the hallway to her left. The silence, apart from her footsteps lightly sticking to the floor, was complete.

She pushed on the first door she passed, but it did not give. Arriving at the first of the hallways, which, she saw, looked identical to that which she found herself in, she chose to stay the course rather than turn down it.

“One way’s as good as another, isn’t it?” she said.

The chill in her feet was painful, so she tried to ignore it. What she wouldn’t give for a pair of shoes or slippers. Even some socks would do.

She took a left at the next corridor, likewise identical, except she could see another corridor that this one terminated at. She pressed on one of the doors she passed, and it opened before her and she gasped; her heart began to race and a terrible fear took her mind so that tears came to her eyes.

The room was small, shelved, and full of shoes and socks. They all looked to be roughly her size.

“What are you doing to me?” she cried out, but still there was no response. She felt she were a rat in a maze, guided down the appropriate branches by subliminal scents of cheese.

But there was no turning down the offer. Fearing she was walking into some kind of trap she stayed in the doorway and didn’t let it close, grabbed the closest pairs of socks and shoes, then stepped back into the hallway. The door stayed open. She sat down on the floor across from it and put on the socks, normal white things, and then the shoes, a pair of Adidas sneakers that smelt and felt like new. They had that crisp stiffness to them when she started to walk, breaking them in, towards the hallway that this one terminated into, which ran parallel to the one she was originally released onto. She wondered how quickly would she lose all sense of direction.

Her shoes clipped and clopped on the floor. She hugged her arms to her chest and turned right at the next intersection. More doors and hallways. More tubes of lighting overhead. More metal.

She pushed at the next door and it swung open. She was surprised to find Leon, younger than he was now, seated on the floor, packing a bag. There was a middle aged man seated on a bed facing him. Heather realized, after only a few minutes watching them, that the man was his father and Leon was packing for college. His father was giving him a talking down.

“I want you to go forth knowing that your great uncle gave his life to fight the Nazis. You, on the other hand, have never suffered a day in your life.”

Well that explains a lot, Heather thought.

She watched them a while longer, watched Leon breaking down into tears, trying to pack and stand up to his father at the same time. Heather thought back to how her own father, a recovering alcoholic, had broken down into tears of pride-approaching-gratitude at her own going-to-college moment.

The door closed of its own volition when Leon stood up and took a small object from her father, which Heather recognized as a Purple Heart enclosed in a clear plastic and velvet box. It held significance. All these objects, all with their own significance. Heather hoped that Leon had thrown her own object, the sun-orb, into the white hot fires of a metal works somewhere. There was one in Oakland that she knew about. The Crucible. They used to have a fire arts festival once a year near the port.

She continued down the passage, passing more doors and openings. She wondered what she would find behind them. More scenes from Leon’s life, perhaps, or maybe something about herself. Maybe something about the last night that they’d had with each other.

But there was no point in going into any of these doors. She only wanted to escape, didn’t want to play their games or learn something that she shouldn’t know, about herself, about Leon. Clearly there were monsters and Leon was their real target. She was just a means to an end.

She took a right at the next intersection.

As it had in the room she was kept in, time here soon lost all meaning. She might have been walking four or five hours, it was hard to tell and her feet were comfortable in the brand new socks and sneakers, until she came to a new door, a special door, and was surprised to recognize the U.S. Government’s insignia of the eagle branded on its center. It was surrounded by a blue and gold circle, but there were no words, Latin or otherwise, framing it.

The bald eagle. The symbol of America, with the branch of some significant tree held in its right claw.

The questions in her mind seemed to multiply with every development. And now the U.S. Government. She supposed this whole place had a sort of Area 51 feel to it. But the sun-orb creatures couldn’t work for them, could they? Maybe they were trying to get a handle on the national situation in which Leon found himself embroiled. She supposed it was important enough. People were going crazy.

Should she try to open the door? She wondered, and, deciding that courage was the way, that she wanted to know the answers, wanted to discover the depths of the plots against her, and that whatever she did was probably worked into their plans anyways (they could read her mind, after all), she took a deep breath, steeled herself and pushed on the door.

It swung open. Heather walked past the threshold into a room and the door shut behind her. She took in the sights around her, far removed from the stark metal world she had just exited. 

The room was huge and imperial. Its walls were books on bookshelves. There was a large desk by a set of tall windows looking out into a green lawn beneath the light of day, and two couches facing each other in the room’s center. They looked plush and comfortable, extremely inviting after her long walk.

But it wasn’t the couches that drew her attention. It was the tall, handsome black man leaning back, cross armed, against the desk, smiling at her. It took only a few moments for her to place him. He was very familiar.

“Welcome, Ms. O’Connor,” the black man said. “I’ve been expecting you.”

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