Where foundlings hide, p.1
Where Foundlings Hide, p.1KL Mitchelson
Where Foundlings Hide
Where Foundlings Hide Copyright © 2016 by K.L Mitchelson
This novel is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to people either living or deceased is purely coincidental.
The author holds all rights to this work. It is illegal to reproduce this novel without written consent from the author.
All rights reserved.
Blood is the connection, but it is love that binds us.
I look down at my hands. They are covered with something dark and sticky, almost black in the half light, and my knees are skinned where they made contact with the ground. I touch the lump on the side of my head with trembling fingers, following the streak of blood that trickles down my temple.
The ground is cold and grainy, like sand and I can hear the sound of waves crashing against rocks below. The moon appears from behind a cloud and I see her balancing on the edge of the cliff.
My eyesight is still blurred from the blow to my head, but I try to crawl towards her, I try to use my last ounce of strength to save her, because that is my purpose. I am inches away from her when her arms flail out. Everything around me seems to freeze as she slips, the wind whipping her hair around her face, white in the light of the pale moon. Her hand stretches out towards me and she yells something, but the wind carries her words away like petals from a dying flower.
The ground below me trembles and I scream her name until my throat is raw, hot tears streaming down my face as my fingers claw at the ragged cliff edge. Her white dress billows around her like the sails of a ship, but it doesn’t slow her fall. The darkness below rears up and swallows her whole. Then she is gone.
I wake with her name on my lips and an ache in my chest. My body is covered with a cold sweat and my hands grip the bedcovers, the sheet bunched up in my clammy fists as the bedroom shakes around me, the door of the narrow, chestnut wardrobe rattling against the wall. The tremor is over within seconds and I breathe a sigh of relief.
The earthquakes started about a month back, the worst that have ever been recorded in England. They don’t last long, maybe ten seconds each time, but they’ve brought down a couple of old, abandoned buildings and they’ve wreaked havoc with the transportation systems. It’s not just here, they’re happening all over the world, along with floods, volcanic eruptions, and freak weather that is so bad, it flattens people’s homes - it’s like nature’s had enough, an angry driver slamming on the brakes and sending us lurching from our seats.
They think it has something to do with ice, deep underground - those who study the earthquakes – but they can’t be certain. At least that’s what I heard. I don’t watch the news anymore, it’s too depressing. The earthquakes could be a sign of an impending apocalypse and I would be the last to know.
Today, I’m thankful for the quake. Usually, I struggle to stir myself from sleep, to shake off that heavy, sickly feeling, but the sudden spike of fear sent adrenaline coursing through my veins. I am wide awake.
My therapist, Dr Parker, says I have a ‘disturbed sleeping pattern’, my dreams plagued by images of my sister, falling, flickering behind my eyes, torturous and disturbing. When the dawn eventually comes, sleep clings to me, pinning my limbs to the bed, making my head so heavy that I can’t lift it from the pillow. But the quakes make me want to run, to find a safe place where I can wait until the tremors subside. That’s what we’re supposed to do when there’s an earthquake, it says so in the information leaflet I was handed when I returned to school. It says that in the event of a quake, we have to find somewhere to shelter from falling ceiling tiles, plaster, or worse, depending on where we are when it strikes.
The tremors make me feel kind of fearfully excited, like going really fast on a rollercoaster. Maybe that’s just me, I don’t get out much, not since my twin sister, Lana, disappeared. The search for her took over my life, and when her body was finally found, after a long investigation, it was torn apart and left in pieces.
I don’t have much interest in anything anymore, not the music Lana and I listened to, or the reality TV shows we watched together. The fashion magazines we used to read cover to cover seem shallow now, the stories of vampires and werewolves that we would read again and again are just meaningless words on a page, and the fencing classes, that I was getting pretty good at, have no appeal without my sister, the junior sabre champion.
My previous life seems a distant memory now, dark at the edges, hazy. Lana and I were one person, a single unit and she was the heart. A body can survive without the heart for a short time, but not for long.
I only returned here, to the Malvern Academy Boarding School, to escape the memories that linger in every corner of our childhood home, every nook harbouring some forgotten event, some whispered word between me and my sister. I needed to fill my days with classes and organised activities, with a routine that lets me to go through the motions without having to think. Besides, I had to let my Aunt Ivy, who has cared for me since I was young, return to work. She’s an Art Historian and travels all over the world to examine ancient relics, forgotten treasures that have been buried for thousands of years and suddenly demand an expensive price tag.
At first, Ivy didn’t care about anything except finding my sister, but once the police found Lana’s body, I could tell that Ivy was itching to get back to work. She would never admit it, but now and again I would see her eyes flicker towards the front door, see them fill with longing as she stared out of the kitchen window at the sea beyond our overgrown garden.
Ivy became mine and Lana’s legal guardian when we were just two years old, after our parents were killed in a plane crash. Our father was Ivy’s brother, he and our mother were Geologists. They were called to an emergency assignment after a volcano erupted in Hawaii. Normally, one of them would stay behind to take care of us, but the situation was so serious that the organisation they worked for called for all of their Geologists to fly out to assist. They didn’t even make it to the island. Their plane was brought down by a thunderstorm somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean and Lana and I became orphans, left in the care of an Aunt who was barely old enough to take care of us.
I don’t remember our parents. Lana said she could, but she didn’t like to talk about them. Sometimes, Ivy would start to tell us stories about our parents, but then she would stop mid-sentence, sadness flashing across her eyes.
Ivy worked at a local museum when Lana and I were young, but she enrolled us at the Malvern Academy when we were eleven and accepted the job that t
The plan was for us to stay at Malvern until we turned eighteen and I never imagined that Lana wouldn’t see that milestone birthday. I took it for granted that we would be together until our final year, when we would have to decide on our next steps. Foolishly, I used to worry about what would happen if we couldn’t decide on a university, I worried that Lana, who was always so headstrong, so much more independent, would choose her university without checking with me first and that I’d be forced to choose the same or live miles away from her. Deep down I knew she would never do that, she was too caring, kind-hearted.
It’s still dark, the only light emanating from the luminous, green digits of my alarm clock, the only sound the whistle of the wind around the old, wooden window frames of the Malvern Academy. The clock reads six am. There would normally be some movement in the corridor by now – the early risers who like to take advantage of the empty bathroom - but it’s the Easter holidays, almost the end, and there’s only a handful of us here, supervised by a few remaining teachers who have no better way of spending their break.
I slowly shift out of bed, my body shaking with that heavy, sleepy feeling as my feet find the floor. I pad over to the window and I throw the curtains open. The moon is still bright in the inky sky, it looks just like it does in my nightmares, when the celestial light illuminates Lana’s pale face as she falls, capturing the look of horror in her eyes, like a photograph with the flash too bright. I shudder involuntarily. The surrounding fields are covered in a shimmering frost and I watch as a fox streaks across the grounds, leaving tiny footprints in the carpet of white before disappearing into the trees that surround Malvern. It’s April, but this far North winter tends to hang around.
The Academy is located in the county of Northumberland, close to the Scottish border where there is nothing but fir trees and craggy moorland dotted with sheep. The nearest village is a forty-minute drive. It has a garage, a pub and a single shop - the kind with an assortment of aged household essentials displayed in a dusty window. Around here, there’s not much for a girl of seventeen to do, but it’s become a second home.
I turn away from the window to brush my long, blonde hair back into a ponytail. I pull off my t-shirt, still damp with sweat, and the cold air kisses my clammy skin, making me shiver as I shrug into my fluffy dressing gown. I hazard a glance at my reflection, the light from the moon casting my face in shadows. My features appear faded, as though I am blurring into the background of my own existence. I look away and turn my attention instead to the laptop sitting on my desk.
I press the power button and drum my fingers impatiently as the screen flickers to life. Sometimes, after a particularly bad night, I like to read one of the many news articles written about my sister. I know it seems strange, but it’s become a habit, and I pore over the articles hoping that I might find some detail that I missed before, something that might help me to understand, to remember. Dr Parker says this is “unhealthy”, that we can’t always trust what is written in the media and that I shouldn’t, therefore, use the articles as a basis for piecing together the missing parts of that night. My memory of it is a black hole. Sometimes something will flit to the surface, a fleeting image, only to be sucked away into the darkness again.
Dr Parker says that we don’t have to have all of the answers, but my ritual isn’t about finding answers. I have the answers about what happened to my sister, she fell, the Police said so after they eventually found her. But I know there’s more locked away, blasted to some far corner of my mind by an injury I sustained to my head that night, leaving only the dream of her falling from that cliff, fluttering around in my mind like a page torn from a book.
I think the dream is a memory, but Dr Parker isn’t convinced. She thinks it could just be a manifestation of my need to know the truth, my mind piecing together a sequence of events to explain how Lana fell to the rocks below, how she could have lain there, undiscovered, for seven months.
I randomly click on one of the files and skim over the words of the article, while the accompanying photograph of Lana smiles back at me, her teeth dazzling-white in a porcelain face. The article is an old one, printed exactly one month after she disappeared, one week before our seventeenth birthday.
Today, an inquest into the disappearance of a young girl during a school trip concluded that safety measures taken by staff at the prestigious Malvern Academy were inadequate.
Sixteen-year-old Lana George vanished last month from a popular camping site at Redcliff Forest in Northumberland. While Police believe she may have fallen from the cliffs, her body has not been found.
Robert Gregory, Head Teacher at Malvern Academy, acknowledged that staff did not conduct a thorough reconnaissance of the area prior to the trip being arranged, but stated that it is traditional for year elevens to visit the cliffs every July to celebrate the end of their final exams. Mr Gregory added that risk assessments were completed prior to the visit to ensure that the students were safe and that the required numbers of staff were present. Mr Gregory reported that additional safety measures will be in place for future trips, pending approval from the appropriate governing bodies.
Although no further action is to be taken against the Malvern Academy, sources say that the school was under threat of closure following the incident and some parents have already removed their children from the once-popular educational establishment.
Until recently, the seventy-year-old, Northumberland-based private school had maintained a reputation for academic excellence and it topped the board of exam results again last year with all students receiving C grade and above at GCSE level.
Police Superintendent Alex Mitchell was also forced to defend the actions of the North East Police Force, after they were criticised for their handling of the initial investigation surrounding the disappearance of the youngster.
Police Officers who interviewed Miss George’s fellow students were branded as ‘heavy handed’ by some parents who complained that their children were subjected to ‘intense discussions’ and ‘interrogation’ without appropriate representation.
Spt Mitchell responded to the concerns by apologising for any distress caused, but insisted that his officers maintained professionalism throughout the investigation.
The force was also slammed for initially missing one of the vital pieces of evidence from the investigation, a leather jacket belonging to Miss George. The jacket was spotted on rocks below the cliffs by a member of the search and rescue team, hours after Police arrived at the scene.
Spt Mitchell admitted that Police thought Miss George may have lost her way in the surrounding woods and conducted their initial searches there. The force received much criticism for focusing on the woodland area when Miss George’s twin sister, Casey George, had already given officers a statement indicating that Lana may have fallen from the cliffs. Miss George’s sister was also injured, sustaining an unexplained head injury that affected her short term memory. She couldn’t offer any information in relation to Lana’s disappearance and was considered an unreliable witness.
When asked if Casey George’s head injury was a sign that the girls were attacked, Spt Mitchell stated that there was no further evidence to suggest that either of the girls was a victim of violence. He went on to say that Casey George was found at the bottom of the path leading up to the cliff and her injury may be completely unconnected to Lana’s disappearance.
The investigation into the disappearance of Miss George continues and anyone with any information is urged to contact Police.
I sink into the chair, brooding over the article. The reporter said that the other students, Lana’s friends, my friends, were subject to “interrogation”. The Police interviewed everyone who was there that night, including me, and while they were eager to find out what
Frustrated, I slam the lid of the laptop shut and pick up the slip of paper beside it, it’s a list of things I wrote about myself.
In our last session, Dr Parker asked me to write a few things down, since I have such a hard time verbalising who I am. Dr Parker thinks it’s time for me to ‘move ahead’, she doesn’t believe in ‘moving on’, she says it has an air of finality that makes people afraid to do exactly that. So, in the interest of ‘moving ahead’, she wants me to reconnect with my identity. I’ve had some difficulties with this task, and so far, my list looks like this:
1: My name is Casey Anne George
2: I am certifiably insane
3: I have a tendency to exaggerate
4: Number 2 is not true
I review the list and hastily scribble out number 4, it’s unnecessary; Dr Parker knows that number 2 is not true, she’s read my records.
The truth is, I don’t know who I am anymore. I used to be a sister, a twin, a friend, but that was before Lana disappeared, before they found her body, before I cut off everyone left in my life.
There is something, however, something about myself that I could write on the list, but never would. Something that would convince Dr Parker that number two is, in fact, true. It’s something that no one else knows, not even Ivy, although sometimes I think she suspects, sometimes she looks at me with a kind of unease, like there’s something odd about me. She would be absolutely correct, because since that night, I have been able to feel the emotions of others. It may be something to do with the blow to my head, or the trauma of losing my sister, I don’t know, but I only have to lightly touch a person, a brush of the arm or a shake of the hand.
It starts with a tingle at the base of my skull, it travels into my jaw and up into my temples, then I feel everything they are feeling.
In the wake of Lana’s disappearance, everyone was so sad, I couldn’t bear to feel their sorrow on top of my own. It was overwhelming, crippling even, so I hid myself away, stayed in my room until I managed to suppress every emotion, all of mine, and all of those that lingered on my skin after contact with other people. At first I thought I was crazy, I’m still not sure what to make of it, and the only person I want to talk to about it, who I would trust not to laugh in my face, isn’t here anymore.
I look at the list, then I write one more thing.
Where Foundlings Hide by KL Mitchelson / Fantasy have rating 3.2 out of 5 / Based on19 votes