The cook out itself was nothing special. Alexis had seen all of her aunts and uncles and cousins many times before. Unlike those times, however, she had nothing to do. Most of the cousins had gotten old enough that she had not recognized them at first. They did not remember her. The amount of energy that she expanded in making small talk with them had been enough to light a whole city for a night. As she stood sipping on her orange soda, she wondered to herself if there was a way to escape. She did not even need to escape for long, just long enough.
When Alexis heard Nia calling out to her, she knew that her sister needed the same reprieve. “Do you want to go get some sparklers with me?”
“Sure.” Alexis did not ask if they were selling them this early. She did not doubt her sister. She knew that Nia had come to her for assistance and Alexis wanted the out. Excusing herself from the conversation, the two left their uncle’s house and started down the street. The closest supermarket was about a half an hour walk, but Alexis was not complaining.
“If I have to get asked to perform like a circus monkey one more time…” Nia grumbled to herself.
“They’re impressed by your knowledge.”
“You say hello and cousin and food words in multiple languages over and over again.” Nia rolled her eyes slightly shoving her shoulder into Alexis.
“Its better than being told. ‘Oh! What job can you get with that degree?’” Alexis pushed her sister back.
“They’re jealous that they don’t know all one hundred top singles of the eighties like you do.” Nia laughed. “Ignore them. They don’t know of your passion for music.”
“It’s not the most lucrative path.” Alexis had to admit that she was setting herself up for something, not that she was sure what that was.
The night was beginning to settle over the land. It was light enough that neither Alexis nor Nia felt any particular danger. However, as the sky changed Alexis realized, once again, that they were not in the city. She couldn’t just walk around. These streets were not lit the same way that they were at home. It would get dark far faster here.
“How is Tiana?”
“Good.” Alexis knew that her sister had heard her talking to Tiana for two hours the night before. “She’s working on some sort of… engine.”
“Isn’t she always?” Nia laughed.
The two arrived at the supermarket, bought some sparklers, which were on sale, and then left. The road was dark as they walked. Alexis’ skin began to tingle. She learned not to ignore the feeling as a kid. On high alert, Alexis examined the situation hyper aware of the world around them. A truck that Alexis was certain had passed them earlier, drove back up the street towards their direction. She could not see into the windows as they passed on the opposite side of the street. It was the truck, her soul seemed to whisper.
“Nia. I have a bad feeling.” Alexis warned Nia. Nia reached for Alexis’ hand without question. Together the two look back in time to see the truck turning around again. Regardless if the person was going to help them or not, Alexis did not trust it.
“Run.” Nia tugged on Alexis and the two began sprinting down the street as the car followed them. Letting her instinct guide her, Alexis grasped her sister’s hand and pushed the two of them off the road into the trees. They stumbled onto a hidden driveway that would have been missed if they had not been forced to find it. Her gut said go forward, trusting the path, despite the ominous nature of it. Alexis pulled her sister. Nia asked no questions as they raced on ahead. The truck followed them far slower due to the gravel and the slope. On ahead, Alexis saw the light of a large mansion ahead and secretly cursed her own luck. Why had her gut sent her to rich people? They would probably be safer than the pursuers but she couldn’t trust them either. There was no way to turn back as they stumbled into a clearing where three men about her age were out with swords. They starred at Alexis and Nia before they directed their attention to the truck behind them.
“Are they following you?” One of them asked. He had silver-blonde hair that was swept back in the way that Alexis did not trust. He was clean shaven, tall and lithe. The way he moved was almost like water. A dancer, she figured. His accent was thick and long, enunciating the words he said in a perfect southern drawl if Alexis had ever heard one. It sounded fake. It was not fake in the forced way, but rather in the, too perfect to be true way.
“Yes.” Nia answered.
“Stand back.” He said, handing the sword in his hand to the largest of the men. The man with two swords was at least six-five. He was a large in both height and weight, with brown hair and brown eyes. With a large tunic on, he looked a bit out of place in this time period. His face still had a bit of it’s childish charm. His hair was cropped short and he had the light sign of a peach fuzz beard.
The last of the three was the smallest, closest to Alexis in height. He had to be about five-nine. His hair was a dark black and when he looked at Alexis, she saw his eyes. He was like her and Nia. He was mixed. All at once, a bit of the apprehension that Alexis had disappeared.
“Can I help you?” The first man said to the driver. The driver rolled down the window and the man smiled. “Declan. It’s a pleasure to see you.” Alexis could not hear what the driver said. “No. They’re my friends.” He paused. “We didn’t expect them to take as long.” He laughed. “I’ll let them know of your hospitality.” His eyes narrowed at whatever the driver said. “No. I do think it would be for the best if you left.” He then smiled and backed up, pulling a box of cigarettes from his jacket pocket and pulling one out. Each movement was slow and deliberate as he put the box away and took out his lighter. He lit the cigarette, breathed it in, and then blew out. All at once the truck roared to life and sped back, flipped a u-turn and sped off up the hidden path. “Moron.”
“Declan?” The smaller man asked.
“He wanted to help the young ladies. He thought they were in trouble.” The man with the cigarette rolled his eyes. “What bullshit. Ya’ll were minding’ your own business.”
“Thank you.” Alexis spoke quickly, refusing to let go of her sister’s hand. Her bad feeling was gone, but she did not trust these strange men she had just met.
“Jordan Brooks.” The man with the cigarette offered out his hand to Alexis and Nia.
“Nia Myung.” Nia took his hand and shook it.
“Alexis Myung.” Alexis took his hand tentatively. When she shook his hand, she was met my a strong grip that sent chills down her arm. He was cold to the touch, and his fingers were tinged the slightest bit blue. His eyes were an aqua ice. Yet the dimples in his cheeks made her ignore his body temperature. He released her hand and looked to the cigarette before tossing it to the ground and grinding the toe of his shoe over it.
“James Allman.” The tall man said. His voice was far lower than Jordan’s. It was such a base voice that did not match his smile or his rosy disposition. They shook his hand. He was normal temperature. For a moment she wanted to reach back for Jordan’s hand to see if his chill had been in her head.
“Nathan Fujiwara.” When he said his name, Alexis had her answer: half Japanese. He offered his hand out when she took his hand, she finally felt at ease.
“Your fingers are going purple again Jordan.” James grabbed Jordan’s hand. “We need to get your inside.”
“We can’t be rude, now.” Jordan snapped his hand back.
“He’s anemic, and his body temperature drops far too easily.” Nathan explained to Alexis and Nia.
“Since when do we tell strangers my medical history?” Jordan glared at Nathan who laughed. Alexis found it strange that Nathan had to give an answer to something like that. She would have assumed anemia, but now she doubted the legitimacy of it.
“What were you doing with the swords?” Nia pointed to the discarded swords on the ground.
“Practicing.” The three said at once. Once again Alexis was weirded out by their unity, but her gut remained relaxed. In fact it almost felt as if she were harmonizing with them, as if everything were more than okay and she should trust them.
“We have convention performance that Jordan signed us up for soon.” Nathan answered.
“Ignore my friends. Would you like tea?” Jordan wove them both off. “A snack. A ride back to your house?”
“A ride would be nice.” Alexis said as Nia said. “I’d like some tea.” Alexis shot her sister a glare and Ria shrugged. “Tea sounds good.”
Jordan looked between the two of them before nodding towards the house. Alexis looked to the mansion before her. It was an old style Colonial home, with tall pillars and white shutters. It was far too large for a single family, and Alexis had no doubt it was an old plantation home. There were trees around it old enough to be hundreds of years old. The house seemed to be a part of the trees in some ways, wrapping around them. The wrap around porch was fresh painted and the second story wrap around balcony, was break taking with glittering fairy lights and crystals imbedded into the pillars. The lawn was green, and the lights in the house did not flicker.
“You must be the girls that moved into the old Conner house.” Jordan said as they stepped up to his porch. Alexis found herself transported there by her own feet, uncertain why she trusted this moment so much. Everything about it was strange and yet…
“You know our house?” Nia asked.
“Everyone does.” James answered, holding the door open for them all. Once inside, Nathan raced upstairs to put the swords away. Alexis was caught off guard by the decor. It felt as if she had stepped into some period drama. The furniture was all old colonial style. The lamps, she knew, had to have been adjusted, but the whole of the room seemed to fit the exterior. The house had not a single piece of modern furniture. A record player sat in the corner next to a gramophone. A old rotary phone was on a stand near the entry to the kitchen, where Jordan disappeared to. There was a mirrored TV, hidden in plain sight, and a working fireplace under it. She breathed out knowing that there was some sort of modern functionality to this place. It made her feel safer and in that she felt worse.
“This is—“ Alexis started when her sister elbowed her.
“Jordan’s parents are… They have a soft spot for old style furniture.” James laughed looking around. He pointed to some different locations. “There are hidden speakers and cameras everywhere. They’re also a bit paranoid.” He then took out his phone and handed it to Alexis. His music app was open. Glancing at him, she looked to the phone and searched herself up and found one of her own playlists. When she hit play, the music came out of the speakers creating an ambiance.
“Excellent choice.” Jordan returned eating what looked like black pudding. “The kettle is on.” It was as he sat down that Nathan came back down the stairs. The five of them sat on the circle of chairs not speaking for a bit.
“What do your parents do?” Nia asked Jordan.
“Investments and Insurance.” Jordan answered. Alexis had a feeling that he came from old money. The way he sat and held himself was very different than the way that James and Nathan held themselves. “Where do you go to college?”
“Boston University.” Alexis did not know what prompted her to answer but she did so. Tiana went to MIT and thinking of Tiana made Alexis want to message her. She needed Tiana to tell her this was wrong, to clear her head.
“I go to Harvard and want to go Oxford for my PhD.” Nia caught herself and lightly touched Alexis’s hand asking her why she had said the answer at all.
Jordan nodded before the boys gave their schools. Unsurprisingly they were all southern schools. From there they began to talk about their majors and in time they began to open up a bit more. Alexis and Nia spoke on the move and the boys told them all about the best places to go in town.
“That would be the tea.” Jordan stood to the shrieking of the kettle.
“Where is the bathroom?” Alexis asked.
“Down the hall and to the left.” Jordan pointed her to a hall and then went to get the kettle for the tea. Walking down the hall, Alexis pulled out her phone to tell Tiana about what had happened when she got the feeling again.
Alexis never knew how to explain it to people. Everything had an energy. Some were positive, some were negative. Most were neutral. Alexis was tuned to the wavelength that the energies gave off. Most of the time she ignored them. The ones that she focused on where those that seemed dangerous or strange. It was one of the reasons she was so drawn to Tiana. Tiana’s energy was calming. The men in the room had been a bit intimidating to them but she trusted them despite the fact that she could not feel their energies. She never had a blank when it came to energies. It made her instinctually distrust them even when her mind told her they were okay.
In the moment, however, Alexis had the feeling of danger. This danger, however, was not the same pace racing fear danger. It was the adrenaline inducing excitement. This danger was a good feeling. Instead of taking a left, she took a right. Walking down the hall, she saw many portraits of beautiful men and women hanging on the walls. There were people of all races. Each one was painted around the same biological age as the others despite the changing art styles and inherent age to when they were painted. There were far more portraits of women than any other gender on the walls. Under the person’s photo was a portrait of their family and a name, written in all different sorts of languages. The walls had nothing else and the hall went on for what felt like a mile until Alexis saw a door. The door was not lit in the hall. It was pitch black and had no key hole. Alexis wondered if she pulled on the handle if it would open.
The portraits closer to the door were photographs. The most modern photograph was of a white woman with a pleasant smile. Her name was under the portrait: Iris. Her family photo was below that of Iris, who Alexis assumed was Jordan’s father, and Jordan. Unlike all the photos and portraits leading up to this, there were only the three. Jordan was their only child. On the opposite wall across from Iris was a picture of Jordan. His name was under his picture, but it was not the one he had given when introducing himself: Aubrey.
For a moment, Alexis was at a loss when she felt her soul being called.
Help. She didn’t hear the word so much as feel it. Reaching for the door knob, she wanted nothing more than to open the door when her hand was taken by Jordan.
“This is the right, sweetheart.” He smiled at her.
“Your name is Aubrey or Jordan?” Alexis asked pointing with her other hand to the portrait.
“Aubrey. Jordan is my middle name. I feel that it suits me better than Aubrey does.”
“What is this hall?” She asked him.
“The hall of the family heads.” He answered her. “I am the next family head.” Jordan shook his head. “Come now. No need to go into that room. It’s family records and nothing else.” His hand grew colder as he pulled her away. She felt like her hand would burn off from how cold it was. The more steps they took the more she focused on him instead of the door. Then everything went white.
Tea was nothing special, and when she got dropped off at home, she couldn’t care less. Her memories were sparse, as if they were being taken from her. She knew that Jordan could be trusted, however. That she was certain of. As she called Tiana that night, she struggled with the details of it all. Slowly she cracked it, remembering the voice and the hall. Had the hall been a dream? No. Jordan said it was nothing. However Jordan had no energy. Trust. Don’t trust. Something was wrong. So very wrong.
As she went to sleep all she could think of was the hall, Jordan, and the door that had called to her. She had to go back, something was there that was calling her soul.