THE MASKED

(Lavania)

I stood there in silence waiting for Macxel to continue.
After a few moments I could hold it no longer and the questions started pouring out.

What happened?
Is your family still living?
Where are they?
Why are you here?

Macxel lifted his head with a look of anguish that silenced me.

The lights popped on and my mind flew in every direction like shards of shattering glass.

He couldn’t be here , it wasn’t safe! When I looked back in his direction though he was gone.

“Macxel! Where are you!?!” I whispered to the air.

“Up here!” He answered softly, giving me a cheesy grin.

He had removed one of the tiles from the ceiling and pulled himself into the crawl space between my ceiling and roof.

It would have to do for now. I had to get out and on my way to school.

“Be quiet and stay up there!” I told him while grabbing my book sack and heading towards the door.

He nodded and slid the tile back into its proper place before I opened the door.

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(Macxel)

It was now nearing noon, I was hungry and tired of being cramped in such a small place.

I let my mind wander while waiting on Lavania to arrive back from school.

I thought about the way things used to be before we converted, everything had changed so suddenly. It was hard to believe that just one short year ago I was in school having a “normal” day, just like anyone else.

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(Lavania)

It seemed as if the bell would never ring.
I needed answers. I dreaded what I would find out though.

The bell finally rang, I was struggling to maintain a normal pace and attitude as I made my way to the large double doors to exit the building.

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(Macxel)

I tensed when the door opened.
Was it Lavania? Or was it someone else?
I didn’t dare to even breathe.

Suddenly there was a small stream of light coming up through the ceiling tile next to me. It was growing larger.

Oh no! Someone’s found me! What do I do now? I thought to myself.

I was starting to devise a plan when the tile was shoved all the way over and Lavania’s head popped through.

I let out my pent up breath and raggedly inhaled.

“Don’t do that!” I sighed.

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(Lavania)

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.” I replied laughing softly. “It’s probably safer if you stay up there until the lights start dimming.”

“You’re right. I need to stretch though and…” Maxcel was interrupt by a loud growl from his stomach. “ well, as you’ve just heard, I’m hungry.”

“If you must stretch do it quickly! I’ll see what I can come up with as far as food goes.” I said trying to be understanding.

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(Macxel)

I came down and stretched as quickly as I could.
Crawling back into my hiding spot I decided it was best I finish my story.

…In short we were exiled. Before we were able to make it out the city Jayara was killed by a Vanquisher. The longer we stayed in hiding the more bitter my Father became. He now seeks to avenge Jayara’s death. Mother is still in hiding and fears for Father and myself also.
I couldn’t stay behind. I needed to know what happens to my Father. He been to every city but this one searching for the Vanquisher. I’ve missed him narrowly each time. Last night,…the monster that came through…was my Father.
The Embarrassments shots made his location easy to find. I watched the people I grew up with through their open doors. Everyone gave away an air of disgust…everyone but you.
You stood at attention like everyone else, your mask was perfectly placed, yet as you stood there you emanated…I don’t even know for sure what it was. Pity? Empathy maybe? Whatever you may call it, it wasn’t disgust.
As you well know, Father is being held in the Asylum. I have to help him! I have to get him out! I can’t do it by myself though. I need help. I’m not asking a light thing of you, I understand if you say no. I understand if you turn me in. If turning me in is your choice I forgive you, if no is your answer I’m sorry for imposing on you, but if not I thank you.

I squirmed in the intense silence that followed my little speech of sorts. The second seemed to drag by slowly turning into minutes still without a response.

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(Lavania)

I stood holding two warmed plates in my hands trying to process everything I had just been told. I came to the conclusion I needed to help. I wanted to see what lies beyond my small world of knowledge.
I finally answered my word slow but steady.
“I’ll go with you. I’ll help you.”
As the words came out of my mouth I realized I was about to embark on one of the most dangerous adventures I’d ever experienced.

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CHAPTER THREE :

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(Lavania)

I can do this! Easy… just go up to the Vanquisher and…I’m insane! I can’t do this! What was I thinking?!

The thoughts running through my head came fast and confused as I walked briskly up to the Asylum gates. I slowed my pace not wanting to appear overly eager. The Vanquisher looked down at me and inquired after my business here.

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(Macxel)

You can do it! Just say you want to help with repairs or any odds and end jobs to make a little money in your spare time… I mentally coached Lavania.

From my hiding spot just beyond the toss mound I could clearly see everything that was happening. Tension building ever higher the longer the Vanquisher interrogated. Upon seeing the Vanquisher nod and signal for the gate to be opened my tension ebbed just to mount once again realizing once Lavania was inside I’d have no way to know what was happening.

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(Lavania)

I did it! Wow! That was terrifying…now to paint the back fence…

I set to work as soon as The Vanquisher had given me the dark grey paint. This place is so dismal, it seems as if all hope of ever succeeding is slowly being sucked away from me.

I jumped startled when The Vanquisher returned to view my handiwork. Holding my breath until he gave his nod of approval, turned on his heel, and left.

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(Lavania)

As I set to work on my next task I let my mind wander. Where is Macxel’s dad being kept?
Does he know we are out here trying to help free him?

“Psst!!”

I slowly turned dreading what I would find. I looked around, the sound seemed to be coming from behind me but there was nothing there.

“Psst!”

I heard the sound again this time it sounded like it was coming from the ground. As inconspicuously as I could I began to search along the ground by the building. Finding nothing there I turned towards the fence and looked along the ground. Nothing.

“Psst! Down here! In the corner by the wiring.”

Recognizing the voice I made my way slowly towards the coil of wire.

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(Macxel)

It’s nearing dusk now and Lavania is taking her precious time to get to me. I’m getting more antsy by the second.

“Hurry up! I’ve only got two and a half more minutes until The Vanquisher’s watch will be back!” I whisper urgently.

“I’m coming as quickly as I can. I didn’t think it would be wise to rush over to you.” She whispers back defensively.

With less than a minute to spare she arrived at the coil. I told her to sit on it and face the gate acting as if she just needed a short break. Upon hearing the wires protest at her slight weight I began to rapidly fire questions at her.

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(Lavania)

I listened intently on the questions Macxel asked me slightly amazed at how quickly he could speak without stumbling over his words.

“No, I haven’t seen or heard anything that could be useful.
Yes, there is a window near enough the ground to jump from.
No, I haven’t looked in it to see what’s on the other side.” I answered.

I Didn’t understand why he wanted to know about a window but we didn’t have time to discuss it. While my last answer was still coming out of my mouth I heard Macxel move away from the fence. Soon I heard the now familiar steps of the Vanquisher’s leather clad feet pass by. Jumping up and I busied myself once again.

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(Macxel)

I heard The door being unlocked and swung myself back into my hiding place.

Soft footsteps and slow breathing met my ears after the door closed along with the all clear from Lavania.
I jumped out of the crawl space to come crashing into her…oops!

Untangling myself I apologized and ask if she is alright to which she grimacingly responds with a thumbs up.

“ Why did you want to know about a window?” She asked while getting back up.

“Well…”

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CHAPTER FOUR:

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(Lavania)

I squeezed myself under the chain length fence that marked the end of our small city.
Macxel followed close behind.

“When we get past these trees there should be a small clearing that’s where we’ve got to be careful not to be seen.” Macxel informed me.

Nearing the edge of the trees I saw the clearing, it looked empty enough with a few fallen branches laying about, it was inviting.

Without thinking I stepped into the clearing. I hadn’t seen The Vanquisher, but he most certainly had seen me! I froze upon hearing The Embarrassment’s shots.

“RUUUUN!!!” Macxel yelled grabbing my arm and half dragging me farther into the tree line.

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(Macxel)

Why do girls never listen?!
Now it’s gonna be 100 times harder to help anyone in the Asylum! I thought.

I was mad but anger was the least of my problems now. I could barely catch my breath, knowing we had a good bit of running to do if we wanted to lose The Vanquisher I pressed on.

I let go of Lavania’s arm and told her not to stop running until I said so. Her eyes were wide in shock and fear. Not slowing our pace I explained The Vanquishers try to keep you in their city to keep you out of contact with others. They say it’s for your safety. It’s not.
I stopped trying to explain The Embarrassment was getting louder, The Vanquisher was gaining on us!

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(Lavania)

We ran, it hurt to breathe and my legs felt like jello, still we ran.

The scenery was changing now, the trees were thinning and we were approaching what seemed to be the entrance to a Canyon…we must’ve been running downhill, it hadn’t felt like we had been though.

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(Macxel)

I slowed as we neared the entrance to the Canyon. Lavania slowed her pace to match mine. Memories flooded over me, it was in this Canyon I removed my mask. Turning I realized I could no longer hear the sounds of The Embarrassment.

“We need to keep moving but we can go at a slower pace, The Vanquisher won’t come through the Canyon.”

Lavania let out an audible sigh of relief. I chuckled and began to take off the mask I had been wearing. I had crafted this mask and I disliked it just as much as any other mask. Once your first mask is taken off all masks are uncomfortable and ill fitting. I threw it to the ground and began wiping the sweat off of my face.

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