Authors: Jason Letts
Book 1: The Synthesis
© 2010 by Jason Letts
All rights reserved: no part of this book may be reproduced by any means without written permission from the author.
This book is a work of
. Any resemblance to any actual person, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
“Dost thou deem it misery to be endowed with marvelous gifts, against which
no power nor strength could avail an enemy? Misery, to be able to quell
the mightiest with a breath? Misery, to be as terrible as thou art beautiful?
Wouldst thou, then, have preferred the condition of a weak woman, exposed
to all evil, and capable of none?”
Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Rappaccini’s Daughter”
In this life, there is nothing worse than being the only one who lacks something everyone else has. The only thing that comes close is finding out everything you’ve known is a lie. Experiencing both might then seem unimaginable, but such was the fate of Mira Ipswich, a girl of fifteen years.
Mira had spent every minute she could remember inside the confines of her home and the surrounding grounds, known as Cloud Cottage. From her room on the second floor, she could look out through a large bay window into the backyard and see a healthy garden, a small wood, and nothing beyond.
Thick walls of mist surrounded her on every side, wrapping around the garden and encircling the house. They arched high up into the sky, tickling at the sun. Neither the faintest image of the outside world nor her own hands could pierce it. For Mira, Cloud Cottage was the only thing that existed. Despite loving her home, the sensation of feeling trapped haunted her no matter how busy she kept herself.
She kept herself busy by running and playing among the nearby trees. Alongside her mother, she tended the garden and houseplants. Jeana also spent considerable time teaching, and Mira proved to be quite a bright student. After spending countless hours a day learning with her mother, Mira turned to her own studies, reading through stacks of Flip Widget’s Manuals of Science and tinkering with the machines in her basement. Her father, who went out into the mist every day, returned when the sun set, and Mira would spend time discussing her newfound knowledge with him or helping him cook the evening meal. After the day had vanished and she had crawled into bed, Mira’s mother gave her a soft kiss that sent her off to sleep.
Although her life was both peaceful and pleasant, some things irked her endlessly. She puzzled over how her father could go out into the mist but she couldn’t. She would watch him slip through, but the mist always repelled her when she tried to follow after him. Many times she would beg and plead with her father to take her out when he went exploring, but he made it clear that was not allowed. It had brought her to tears more than a few times, but she could do nothing more about it than sulk in the garden, surrounded by the tiny world that she lived in.
Wiping a tear from her eye, on a day like any other, Mira noticed something strange taking shape against the cloud. It was just a curvy line at first, small yet distinct, but it grew longer and met with other lines. Her curiosity distracted her from her sorrows. Bending lines, ovals, and circles imprinted themselves on the soft, wavering surface. She leapt to her feet and looked deeply into the figure forming in the white wall. The lines joined and a face appeared. Within the undulating surface, it seemed to breathe and blink. The moisture collected on Mira’s fingertips and dripped down her cheeks when she stared into it from up close. Gazing into the face before her with its ponytail off to the side, she realized it looked an awful lot like hers. Just as she began to wonder if she’d been looking into a mirror, the image in the cloud washed away completely.
“Hello? Is someone there?” She shouted into the wafting mass and waited for an answer. Her heart thumped inside her chest. Keeping her ear against the billowing wall, she waited patiently until the water had drenched her clothing, but only silence came to her.
She began to think it had all been her imagination. She couldn’t count how many times she had hoped someone would walk through the mist to talk with her. Perhaps she had only seen what she wanted? But she remembered it, and it was real.
She cast away the last of her doubts and trusted that what she saw was real. Feeling confident and thrilled, she sprinted down the path between tomato plants and cabbages to report the news to her mother. Jeana, busy pruning a large plant, was startled by her daughter’s sudden appearance. The girl, soaked, flushed, and out of breath, struggled to express what had happened.
“Mom! Mom!” She huffed with her hands on her knees. “I saw something…through the mist. Looked like a face. I…I.”
“What? That’s impossible.” Putting down her clippers, Jeana reluctantly shifted her attention. She brushed the graying hair from her cheek to reveal the faintest wrinkles around her eyes and mouth.
“I saw it though. I swear. Something was out there. It could have even been another person,” Mira said.
But her mother’s steady reaction started to frustrate her, and the disappointment chipped away at her hope that she had stumbled upon something important.
“I’m sorry, but it’s probably just inside your head. I’ve never seen anything through there,” Jeana said.
“Maybe Dad knows something about it. I’ll have to ask him later when he gets back.”
“Maybe it was your father,” Jeana offered, seizing another possible solution. “Did you ever think of that?”
“No, I didn’t. But I don’t think it was. It looked like my own face staring back at me.”
“Do you have any evidence to support what you think you saw? How can you be sure?” Jeana asked.
“I don’t have evidence, but I know it was real. I guess I’ll ask him about it.” A sinking, unsatisfied feeling had replaced Mira’s excitement. Unconcerned that her mother would hear the echo of her vast disappointment, she let an agonized sigh escape from her lips. Jeana held her face in her hand for a moment, and then shook her head as if to disregard her thoughts.
“I think you should probably just forget all about it. Here, come here.” Jeana motioned Mira to her side, pointing to the pistil and stamen of a nearby flower. “Can you tell me what these parts of a plant are called?” she asked, changing the topic of conversation for good.
Far from forgetting about it, Mira brought up the news as soon as her father, Kevin, had returned home. He felt exhausted and stressed, but Mira lit up when he walked through the door, proceeding to tell him all that had been occupying her thoughts. Putting his hand to his chin, he assumed a bookish appearance, amplified by the clean part in his hair.
“A face you say? I think you must be mistaken. I’ve never seen anything that can get through the mist. You shouldn’t let yourself get worked up so easily,” he said.
“I really did see it though. The face looked so alive, like it was trying to say something,” Mira conveyed.
“Oh, it was trying to say something all of a sudden? What did it tell you?” Kevin teased, showing his dimples with a smile.
“I couldn’t make out any of the words, but the lips moved and the eyelids fell, hiding something sad or secret.”
“What can I tell you, sweetheart. There’s just nothing out there for you. I’m sorry. How about we find something interesting to dissect?”
“But, Dad, you have to believe me! It was really there. I could show you where and we could go looking for it together. Maybe it’s someone who needs help or…or maybe even someone my age who’s lost.” A note of desperation crept into her voice, and it reminded Kevin how Mira’s pleadings had become more frequent and more persistent. He searched for a way to tell her it was all for her own good.
“Mira, you’ve just got to put it out of your mind. You didn’t hear anything because there’s nothing out there. You might imagine things are bad now, but what if you found something and your life became so much worse. What if it became a painful nightmare that made your present unhappiness seem like bliss?”
His daughter stared into his eyes, searching for the truth. If his words hinted at the existence of another world, then that could only mean one thing for hers.
“I can’t stay trapped in this cloud forever!” Flushed and defiant, she ran to her room and slammed the door. After some time, Jeana went up to find her. She offered a few comforting words and saw her daughter off to sleep.
Returning to the kitchen, Jeana met her husband with a distinct look of displeasure. Kevin was saddened to have to stand in the way of his daughter’s wishes. They looked at each other through tired, red eyes.
“Maybe we should reconsider our plans,” Jeana said, biting her lip.
“Why? What has changed from yesterday to today?”
“Do you know what that face could have been? What if someone was trying to get in? Could you be losing your strength? You’re not as young as you used to be.”
“Impossible,” Kevin said. “I don’t know who or what it could be, but it doesn’t sound good. I’ll get to the bottom of this. Don’t you worry.” He attempted an air of finality and turned to leave, but Jeana wasn’t finished.
“I don’t think it’s right of us to keep Mira here any longer. Maybe it’s been a mistake all along.”
“You know how dangerous it would be for her. We might as well be marching her off to her death. And we’d be responsible for it. She might not last a day.” Exasperated, he cast his eyes to the ceiling.
“Don’t be ridiculous. We could still protect her. It would be a difficult adjustment for her, but it’s what she wants. And she could make it.”
Disbelief filled Kevin’s head.
“She could make it? Are you mad? You just said yourself that someone could be trying to get in here, and you want to let her wander about where any accident or villain could strike her? And be mindful of the war. It seems far away from our sleepy little town, but it’s all-consuming. How long could she escape it?”
“She could join the academy. She could learn to defend herself.”
Kevin’s temper fizzled and he laughed heartily.
“I’m sorry, honey,” he apologized, knowing she was serious. He came to her and wrapped her in a loving hug. “You’ve thought it all out, haven’t you? But what could she possibly defend herself with? She’d be candle wax trying to put out a flame.”
Jeana calmly distanced herself from him, looking into his face with solemnity.
“I don’t know, but this is the life that she was born to live. It belongs to her and not to us. She deserves the chance to make from it what she can.”
Kevin found this argument much more difficult to refute. He considered it for a moment, rolling his head around his neck, before speaking.
“You do realize how agonizing it will be for her, don’t you? To say she is different from everyone else glosses over that she is missing something important, something vital. What she lacks will haunt her for as many days as she can muster, overshadowing the miracle that she’s survived every day.”
“We can’t know for sure how she’ll react. It’s true she’s led a sheltered life, but there’s the possibility something bright and courageous will emerge.”
They held each other again, letting the decision they had come to soak in before the words had been said. In their embrace, he unleashed his imagination and peered into his wildest visions of what could happen. It wasn’t long before fear turned the embrace into a terrified clutch. But, in his mind, he stood firmly in the belief that their daughter would have control now, no matter what happened. And Jeana made sure he knew she felt exactly the same way.
“Then it’s decided. We’ll let her flourish or fail under her own power. Her disadvantage is substantial, but we can’t be guilty of stripping her of her freedom any longer. The only thing left to consider is how we should open the blinds.”