Despite the entrancing plot and compelling characters, her crime novel became an indistinguishable blur. On the third pass reading the same line over, Anna drowsily conceded defeat. Reluctantly she closed the book and put it on the nightstand. It was way past her normal bedtime and she didn’t want to be a sleep-deprived zombie at work. It wouldn’t be the first time a ‘page turner’ seduced her for an all-night reading binge. It was just that the sandman was more insistent.
The next thing Anna knew, the lights were out in the room. The darkness was so encompassing that she didn’t recognize anything. Her disorientation was so pronounced that she wasn’t even sure which way the bed was positioned in the room. Everything felt ‘wrong’ to her groggy senses at the edge of consciousness. When she instinctually tried to turn on the lamp, her arm felt as heavy as lead. It refused to even raise off the mattress.
The stark realization came that she was actually tied down with restraints. Primal fear and adrenaline jolted her instantly awake. Anna stifled a blood-curdling scream and attempted to keep her wits through the heart pounding crisis. She tugged at her bounds until an unfamiliar feminine voice shattered the illusion that she was alone. In an unconvincing attempt to calm her, the unseen stranger assured her she was in no danger.
On one hand, she now had concrete proof that she was neither alone nor free in the sanctity of her own home. Being a prisoner for any reason was terrifying but on the other hand, hearing a woman’s voice was slightly more reassuring. If her captor had been a man, she would have been infinitely more frightened about his possible motives. Either way, it was a highly unwelcome invasion she was eager to bring to a peaceful conclusion. There really wasn’t any way to minimize the jarring impact of an intruder holding her captive for unknown reasons.
“What do you want?”; She asked as calmly as she could muster. “I do not have many valuables here but you can take my ATM card. My PIN number is 6-3-2-7. Please don’t hurt me!” She hoped to reason with the woman, if possible.
The soothing voice in the darkness took little heed to Anna’s apprehensive pleas before speaking again. This time in an even more reassuring manner. “No harm will come to you but it is important that you listen to what I am saying. It’s crucial that you absorb and understand. After I have finished briefing you on your new life, I will try to answer as many questions as I am allowed to. Do… you…. understand?”
Anna did her best to comprehend the strange things she was being told. Mentally she was screaming at the ominous ‘new life’ comment and it’s murky implications for the future. She feebly yanked at the restrictive bonds while struggling to keep it together.
The voice continued patiently: “We’ve been carefully observing a number of extraordinary women for a long time. The important purpose of which will be clear to you at a later time. Because of your unique gifts, beauty and talents, you have been chosen for this special purpose.”
Anna tugged her restraints with a greater sense of urgency at the extremely morbid shift in her captor’s explanation. The complete loss of control and the dark tone of her words triggered a new wave of fear.
“I must remind you that there is no escape from this immense honor and duty. While you may not yet see these circumstances in a positive light, there is no bargaining your way out of it. There is no negotiation to win back your freedom. The former life you led, is gone forever.”
Forgetting the instruction to wait until it was over; Anna interrupted the ‘orientation’ in progress to protest the unfathomable things she was being told.
“Why are you doing THIS? Let me go NOWWWWWW!”; she hissed. Her last remaining bit of resolve faded into full-blown-panic. “LET ME GOOOO!” Anna yanked even harder and screamed at the top of her lungs in a futile attempt to attract the attention of her neighbors. After her intense surge of adrenalin completely drained, there was only exhausted silence. She began to sob inconsolably in the dark.
“Even if your neighbors were nearby, they couldn’t hear your cries. You are completely isolated. While your outburst is understandable and justified under the circumstances, the failure to follow my instructions has cost you two weeks of sunlight.”
Anna didn’t know whether to scream again in futility, or plead for pity from the mysterious captor. Her life was no longer hers. She was a prisoner at the mercy of unknown entities. A shadowy group whose lone spokesperson referred to themselves with the vaguest of pronouns: ‘we’. With no apparent means of escape; Anna surrendered her will to the unknown.
Sensing a bit of progress had been made, the anonymous benefactor continued; “I know you are afraid and have many questions. I will do my best to answer them and to reassure you. Despite your loss of identity and personal freedom, you ARE completely safe. I completely understand your feelings because I also experienced the same fears and emotions when they came for me.”
Those revealing words slowly sank in. Her captor had previously been a captive too! Whatever cult she had been seized by was very clever to use former victims to indoctrinate new initiates. They still possessed the sympathetic mindset of what it was like to be on the other side of the restraints.
The voice in the darkness interrupted her predictable train of thought. “This isn’t a run-of-the-mill religious cult holding you hostage, Anna. You really have no idea yet just how globally powerful we are. World leaders are our puppets to manipulate and discard at will. We possess an unparalleled level of advanced technology and infinite financial resources. The world you ‘knew’ yesterday is gone. This IS your life now.”
“My family will never stop looking! They will get the FBI and other law enforcement authorities involved in this abduction. They will never give up searching!”; She quipped defiantly. “You can’t just snatch a person from their bed in the middle of the night and expect no one to care. My father will turn over every rock on Earth to find me and bring me home!”
“You are right. Your family loves you very much. They will do everything in their power to locate you; as well as state and federal authorities BUT they will NOT find you. You are so far off the grid of humanity that all searches will be fruitless. For all practical purposes, it’s as if you never existed.”
Anna choked back a well full of tears. Her uninvited guest’s methodically delivered oration sapped away her remaining hope. She slipped into an almost comatose-like survival mode; devoid of any further fight or defiance.
“We have a long day ahead of us. Soon you will start making the initial adjustment toward acceptance and your metamorphosis. First of all, our world class chef has prepared your favorite breakfast. Please try to focus on the present, ok? Things will come easier for all of us in the organization of you do.”
A dim light illuminated the room for the first time and cast an eerie aura on her surroundings. As her eyes slowly adjusted to the new light source, she was able to make out the faint outline of her shadowy companion. The unmistakable odor of Eggs Benedict and bacon with whole wheat toast and coffee filled the room. Her breakfast was on a tray at the edge of the bed.
“How does your chef know what I like to eat?”; Anna demanded. “Will you please come a little closer so I can see your face?”; She begged. “I don’t even know what to call you.”
“He knows your eating preferences because we’ve been studying your interests since you were a small child! We know just about everything there is to know about you. We have your DNA mapped, your grades from Elementary school. Your diary pages. We have footage of your first kiss with Brian Ledford in the fourth grade. I’ve seen footage of when you were accused of stealing chewing gum from the grocery store when you were eight years old. Incidentally, your ‘friend’ Stacy put it in your coat pocket to frame you! You handled that unpleasant event with so much poise and maturity! It is proof that you have what it takes to be successful in this very important project. That and other events from your past are the reason you were selected.” Her companion in the dark paused briefly before continuing.
“We know things about you that you don’t even realize about yourself. The organization has been with you every step of the way. Patiently they waited until you were ready for this pivotal phase of your life to begin. You may not have realized it, but your whole life leading up until this point was just preparation for what is to come.”
Anna’s head began to spin at the implications of some shadowy cabal spying on her, all her life. If there was any level of calm left in her, it was gone now.
End of part 1
“Now that the initial shock has worn off, I’ll move a little closer so you can see me better.”
Anna gazed for the first time upon a remarkably beautiful woman of Asian features. She possessed a welcoming smile and sparkling eyes.
“Now, where are my manners?”; She apologized. “Let me introduce myself. Roughly translated, my name is ‘Delilah’, or ‘Lily’ for short. I was your predecessor in the journey you are about to embark upon. I will reveal the nature and purpose of our mission when those things become more prudent to your experience. For now, please eat your breakfast and I’ll tell you a little about myself.”
“When I was chosen as a mission candidate a few years ago, I was just as frightened and confused as you are now. I was told by my mentor that I had to learn English, Arabic, and Japanese very quickly in order to qualify.”
Anna interrupted: “Wait! English isn’t your first language? You speak it so fluently that I took you for a native North American. I would have never guessed you were….”
“Chinese”; Lily completed the unfinished sentence. “I grew up in a small village outside Beijing. My family handcrafted pottery and ceramic ware for domestic use. As a child I had no knowledge of the West or any formal education. All that changed the day I was chosen to be entered into the competition.”
“What ‘competition’? What is THIS and why was I singled out?”; Anna demanded. “Whatever it is, I don’t want it. It’s no ‘great honor’ to me!”; She blurted out; before Lily had an opportunity to respond. “I demand to be freed immediately”.
Anna could see Lily smiling faintly in the dim light. She couldn’t decide if it was from pity; or a ‘predictable reaction’ smile which her statements garnered. Either way, it was clear that while somewhat sympathetic to her plight, Lily had no intention of letting her go. In view of unsuccessfully appealing to her empathy, Anna decided to change tactics and go on the offensive. She dared to press on, despite a growing fear that she already knew the answer to what she was about to ask.
“So far this mysterious competition sounds like an underground ‘Billionaire Boy’s Club’ or secret society. The über rich are untouchable and literally get away with murder. With enough money and power, they could easily kidnap someone and parade them around in mock ‘beauty pageants’. They probably compete among themselves as a sick matter of pride and national bragging rights.
Tell me this isn’t why I’ve been ‘chosen’! Please tell me that’s not the ‘all important purpose’ I’m supposed to be adapting to. Am I just a pawn in some sick billionaire’s entertainment?” Anna spewed out her hypothesis with loathing, sarcastic venom. She fully expecting to find out she was correct.
Lily looked at her with a blank expression. Momentarily it seemed to confirm the ‘dog and pony show’ theory before she adopting a stern, disappointed countenance.
“You have NO IDEA how far from reality you actually are. The fact is that you couldn’t even fathom the truth if it were divulged to you at this point. For that reason, I have to reveal the details in carefully layered stages. It must be done gradually for your mind to grasp and accept the truth.
Now. Let’s put this silliness and self pity behind you so we can focus on what is truly important. You must begin learning the educational and linguistic communication skills you will need; if our plans are to be successful.”
Anna was somewhat taken aback by Lily’s flippant response. It seemed like a very logical conclusion based on the information she had been provided; up until that point. Every time she brought up her desire to know more, Lily would change the subject or be evasive. Eventually it got to the point where she suspected she was closer to the ugly truth than Lily wanted to admit.
In between the stilted question and vague ‘answer’ sessions; they began an intense education regimen. With some level of rebellious trepidation, she elected to embrace all activity that did not harm her. The academic battery stimulated her intellect to new heights and the physical training pushed her to the very edge of physical endurance.
Anna was given elocution and diction training, martial arts and yoga instruction. She was versed in numerous languages, physics, intense music theory and various aspects of fine art. When she wasn’t learning about advanced medicine or horticulture, she was exercising intensely in the parts of the compound she was allowed to visit. In her rare ‘free’ time, she listened to the greatest literary works of mankind in her ‘dorm’. Simply put, Anna’s waking hours were utilized absorbing everything about human history and accomplishments.
While she greatly missed her family and never accepted being ‘chosen’; she dined on world-class cuisine and enjoyed an unparalleled education. There was also unlimited access to entertainment in the audio/video library but the lack of freedom, was no less a prison. With no option to escape, all she could do was to adapt to the challenge and remain in ‘survival’ mode.
With the exception of Lily, she was completely alone in her ‘womb-like’ quarters. The two of them bonded despite Anna’s initial intention to defy her visible captor. It was bound to happen with the close knit, ‘teacher / student’ relationship that they forged over time. Lily had taught her a wealth of things and felt like a real friend despite the unique circumstances.
Every morning after breakfast and yoga, she ran for five miles. The endless labyrinth of corridors in the complex allowed for an excellent jogging course; even if the scenery never changed. The lack of windows led her to believe she was deep in a massive underground bunker. She mentally mapped the passageways in efforts to exploit possible weaknesses in the complex. When the opportunity presented itself to enter a restricted area through an open seal, she acted immediately.
Once on the other side of the door, her perspective changed forever. A large window beckoned to reveal long held secrets. For a great while she could not make sense of the startling information delivered to her brain. She could only see stars on the other side of the glass. There was no land or sea in the foreground. There was no sky or clouds above; only endless space!
Anna’s knees buckled under the weight of terrible realizations. She collapsed to the floor in a heap of overloaded nerve endings. Lily rushed over to be by her side to soften the blow of what she was about to learn.
“I felt it was finally time for you to discover the truth. I arranged for you to ‘find’ this window so we could get it all out in the open. I knew it was going to be very hard for you to to accept but your very transparent desires to escape are hindering your studies. The distraction level has become greater than the benefit of keeping the secret any longer.”
“Are we really… in… space?”; Anna stammered. Realizing the inconceivable answer to her own query, she swallowed and asked a more pertinent question: “Why?”
“We are on a very long journey to an Earth-like planet in the star system of Arcturus; to start humanity over again.; Lily answered with a well rehearsed, monotone reply.
“But it would take thousands of years to get to another solar system!”; Anna managed to retort. “We will all be dead before we even… I’ll never get to see my family again! They will…”
Lily cut Anna off mid-sentence before her panic attack escalated any worse. She used her voice-com badge to request a sedative from the ship’s medical staff. “Your family and everyone you have ever known, is gone. The Earth was rendered uninhabitable 11,800 years ago by nuclear and biological weapons.
“What? That doesn’t make any sense what-so-ever!”; Anna said with fierce denial and a heightening level of agitation. How could the world have been destroyed 11,000 years ago? I’ve only been ‘here’ a few months and…”
In a calming manner, Lily held up her hand to gently explain another fantastic truth that was going to be very hard to accept. “Every time we go to sleep, our cabins are flooded with an odorless gas that puts us in a deep state of ‘suspended animation’. Every person aboard remains that way for an extended period of time, while the ship is on ‘auto pilot’. We are roused from the deep hibernation only when it is necessary. Essentially 120 years has passed each time we close our eyes but to the body, only a few hours seems to have gone by. It is the only way to survive the long journey to our new home.”
The cold, hard reality hit Anna like a ton of bricks. Everyone she knew was dead. The Earth had been destroyed. In the truest sense of the word, she was ‘homeless’ and adrift while floating through space. At that moment, she wished she had died along with everyone else she had ever loved on the big blue, charred ‘marble’ in space. The very one that humanity had previously called ‘home’
Lily knew the devastating feelings Anna was going through since she also had to come to grips with them. She did her best to console her past the harsh truths.
“Anna, the whole of humanity is now on this ship! We have scientists, doctors, artists, architects, musicians, philosophers, athletes, and every other walk of life, on board. We can’t give up as a race just because our personal loved ones are gone! Humanity as a unit must survive. We will build a better society than the one that ultimately destroyed our planet. I promise you that we will thrive again! We will learn from our past mistakes. We will prosper and you personally have been ‘chosen’ to be the mother for our new society! You will give birth to the next generation of mankind when we finally reach our new home. In appropriate honor of the historical circumstances, we are hereby renaming you, Eve.”
For the first time in nearly 12,000 years, ‘Eve’ gazed upon another human being besides her mentor. The medic walked into the room and administered the sedative to her trembling arm. Somewhere on the ship, ‘Adam’ awaited their meeting.