Roger followed us from the lunch room back to Simil’s apartment. “Be out here with your bags in 20 minutes. We have to be to the hanger in an hour. I have a few last things I have to go talk to the Chair about. I did not have enough equipment prepared on my side because of the additional person,” he expressed.
“We’ll wait,” Simil nodded before unlocking the door. He waited for me to enter, ever watchful of Roger’s hesitation that I would willing go into Simil’s private quarters. When I was safely inside, Simil closed the door and waved the lock into place. He leaned against the door, closing his eyes briefly.
I made for the bedroom and opened up the wardrobe. I found the small carryon bag I had noticed in there before. I pulled it out and laid it open on the bed.
“What are you doing?” Simil asked, leaning against the doorway.
“Getting our bag packed. I don’t have a carryon, so I have to somehow get both our stuff to fit in here,” I explained as I pulled out a couple days of undergarments for both of us and started counting socks.
“You do this when your husband leaves?” he asked.
I stopped short. I looked up at him, not really sure of his expression. “It’s almost like a going away ritual for me. I pack everything up and double check to make sure he has everything. It’s like the last housewife type thing I can do for him,” I answered as I continued.
“Will it take you long?” he asked as he went into the wardrobe and pulled out a couple of smaller bags that could only carry who knows what in them. They were shoved into a duffle bag he pulled out from under the bed.
“Shouldn’t take more than a couple minutes,” I answered.
“Let me know when you’re finished,” he requested. He had been more articulate recently. He had dropped his odd pattern of talking in short sentences. I nodded.
Not more than three minutes later I had a bag packed for the both of us for three days. I figured if it took any longer, there was enough sitting in an account to buy a couple more days worth, or we could find a laundromat somewhere.
“We still have fifteen minutes. I’ll see you outside,” Simil finished zipping the duffle bag. He had loaded it with probably eight or nine little black bags. “Oh, I’m ready, I’ll join you,” I offered amiably.
“Gracey?” Carl was back and perplexed. He looked down at the bags.
“Carl?” I suddenly understood what Simil meant. He was giving me time with Carl.
“Are you going somewhere?” Carl asked, panicked.
“The Chair is sending us after Chyril,” I told him.
“Ah, so Simil’s been summoned. I guess this’ll be a crash course in what they’ll be expecting of you,” he mused, rubbing at his neck. I eased my way over to him. “You know…we have a couple minutes…” I trailed off, glancing at the closed curtains.
“That wouldn’t be enough time for me, Gracey,” Carl folded his arms around me.
“For how long we’ve been apart, I’d think it’d be rather quick,” I teased.
“I want to take my time, when we can finally have some time,” he kissed my neck.
“Why does everyone seem to look at me funny when I touch you?” I asked.
“Like I told you before, I’m the Guild’s dog, it’s assassin, the boogie man. It’s like touching a rabid dog, or something disgusting…maybe? People are either terrified for you or terrified of you for willingly approaching the boogie man and not maintaining some kind of bubble, I guess,” he slumped on me, letting me take his weight.
“Why did you become a Simil, Carl? You could have just kept at the pay rate you were at, if it was anything like I was offered before Drover showed me what a Dewey could make, you would never have had to take this kind of burden,” I closed my eyes, enjoying feeling his warmth wrapped around me.
“It really wasn’t for the money,” he sighed, dragging me to the bed. He sat down, sitting me on his lap. I loved it when he did that, though I always felt bad because I always felt like I was squishing him. I let him hold onto me.
“I really…I really didn’t think that I’d make it to Simil. There were several other good candidates. One of them was a good friend, a mentor to me almost. He was two grades ahead of me in school and would help me when I had difficulty with my Reads. He had really wanted to become the next Simil. He knew the social stigma. He was always a bit of a loner and thought it would fit his personality. He just kept waffling. So, I thought I’d help him out and go do the training with him. I thought he was going to make it. He almost did. The last test, the way you pass or fail is by consuming a character. That’s when you truly become the Simil. Sometimes you can come out of it without consuming a character and you’re fine, sometimes… He was trying to consume Captain Ahab from Moby Dick,” he drew in an unsteady breath.
“Ahab fought back?” I surmised.
“He lost his mind completely. He’s been put in a hospice for Guild members. Readers tend to have a higher rate of mental illness then regular people. The power can warp our brains. It just…it gets to you after a time. Some faster than others. He’s been a vegetable since. I’ve gone back to see him a couple of times since then, always as Carl.
I…I succeeded where he and the other ones didn’t. The other ones just didn’t have the ability to draw in their chosen characters. It wasn’t that I got into it to become Simil, but I can’t blame him either. It’s everyone’s choice at each level of training and testing if you want to leave. At some point, I got competitive. I kept pushing my levels. I kept fighting to be better. It was petty, and I didn’t really consider what I was doing to myself…or us, to you and Dante.
I’m so sorry, Gracey. I am. I should never have gotten involved in the Simil tests. That wasn’t fair to you, or Dante. I should have known better. I did know better. It’s encouraged in the Guild that those aiming to become Simil not become romantically involved. It can be very difficult on their partner, and I did that to us,” he sobbed into my shoulder.
I didn’t know how to respond to that. I sat there and let him cry himself dry. “I love you, Carl. I always will,” I kissed the top of his head.
He leaned into me. “I love you too, Gracey. I’ve needed to say that for so long,” he drew in a deep breath.
“Better?” I asked.
“Mhmm,” he nodded.
“We probably need to get going. Roger will be here shortly to get us,” I told him.
“Roger? Roger Chao?” Carl perked up, but not in a friendly way.
“He’s your handler,” I defended.
“He’s an ass. I didn’t know he was my handler…well, Simil’s handler. God, I can’t believe you have to deal with him for the next couple of days. I’m sorry,” he said.
“Bad ass, or just an ass?” I tried to define.
“Just an ass. He’s not malicious or anything. He’s just…snotty,” Carl tried to put his finger on why he didn’t like Roger.
“He was surprised to learn that you were Simil. He seemed rather distressed that you had disappeared and turned into the Mad Hatter,” I informed him.
“He’d follow around those competing for the title of Simil. Me more than others because of the whole shared split ancestry thing. He thought he found a kindred spirit in another half Asian.
Mom was raised as deep Southern as my adoptive grandmother could get. Let alone mom is from Kyoto, not Hong Kong. I couldn’t tell you the difference between Beijing and Kathmandu. Roger’s focus was almost some kind of sick fetish, I swear. Good kid, but really misguided. Well, at least now I know what became of him,” Carl leaned back on the bed. I rolled off of him and curled up next to him.
“You know the difference between Beijing and Kathmandu. You’ve traveled the world,” I defended his intelligence.
He chuckled. “Land me somewhere, point me in a direction and tell me to be somewhere at a specific time and I’ll do it. I don’t really care where I end up, just that I can read the language and do the job. You’re the art and history lover.”
“You deal in antiques,” I persisted.
“I deal in libraries and manuscripts, museum archives of written words. Some things I have only told you in half truths. This is one of them.”
“Oh,” I let the silence fall on us for few heartbeats. “Does Naomi or Stephen know about all this?” I asked after my in-laws.
“Dad does. He had the ambassador job and mom just followed him around everywhere, so ‘enrolling’ me in ‘boarding school’ proved to be an easy cover. He is a Red Reader and noticed my talent back when I turned five.”
“Ah. That’s why he’s been overly helpful with house repairs the last four months, covering for you. So, he’ll understand if he doesn’t see Dante as often?”
“I’ll let him know what’s going on with you and Dante. I haven’t really thought about it. Just have to send him an email real quick.” He sat up and grabbed for his phone on the nightstand. “I’ll have him check in on our house. You’ve got everything on autobilling, so we won’t miss the mortgage payment. I’ll have him turn the water off at the house. He can check in on Dante and let him know what’s going on while we are dealing with Chyril. We should stop by the institute when we get back.”
“I would like to see where Dante is being educated. Is it the same one you were raised in?” I pressed out of curiosity.
“Kindergarten through Senior year. I could have continued my university studies there too, but I wanted a change of pace. There’s two institutes here in the U.S., one on the east coast, and one near us, the one I graduated from. There’s also an institute for each country, though I think Brazil, Canada, and Russia have two like us. China does have three to deal with their population and land mass.
Roger’s originally from the Hong Kong branch. His mom was the daughter of an English CEO who had a production company in Chengdu and his dad is the CEO of a rival company.”
“Should I be worried of Roger’s intentions?” I asked.
“Nah, not really at least. He won’t do anything to you directly. Especially if he knows we’re married. He at least has enough moral fortitude to not do something indecent to a woman. He’s just liable to say something that’ll make you want to chuck fireballs at him. Seeing what you’re capable of, I’d say you’ll need to work really hard to not do that,” Carl told me. I could tell he was smirking when he said that. I didn’t even have to look at him.
“Tough luck, I almost stuck him in an ice block earlier. Instead, I just tried to tell him off,” I laughed.
“I bet you did. What did you do, tell him you were Alice? I wish I could have seen that reaction,” he beamed.
“It wasn’t as great a reaction as I think you’re thinking. He was just being really weird about the fact that I was touching you, so I told him that we were married, and that I was Alice to the Mad Hatter. Kinda a one two punch. He looked like he was going to be sick,”
“It is kind of amazing that we got partnered up so well, Gracey,” Carl mused.
“You might have been pushing the Simil tests for more reasons than to just support a friend,” I joined in with his musings.
“You are Alice,” he said in a hushed tone. He was just grasping that thought.
“Why did you choose Alice in Wonderland?” I asked.
“Because it reminded me of…” he looked at me, startled.
“Reminded you of what?” I asked as I sat up to straighten my hair. We were running out of time. Roger was going to be there any minute.
“It reminded me of you,” he whispered, more to himself than me. “We found each other in college. You never dated before then, right?” he asked. I shook my head. “Why?” he asked.
“No one seemed to satisfy my interests. True, I might be attracted to a variety of people, but not at enough of a level to actually do anything about it,” I stood up and adjusted my clothes.
“Were you waiting for someone capable of becoming a Simil?” he asked, more philosophical than accusatory.
“I don’t…I don’t think so. I’m not really sure. I mean, I didn’t know I was a Dewey until just yesterday…so I don’t think it was that necessarily. Maybe some part of me knew, but that’d have to be some seriously deep subconscious shit there,” I pulled the carryon off the bed. Carl got up and grabbed the duffle bag.
“It’s not like the Mad Hatter is a love interest of Alice in the story. The man is just a deranged individual, in the book, who gives Alice advice that may or may not have been helpful in the long run. She was just a kid in the book. I mean, if I was Juliette and you became Romeo, I would say yeah.” We pulled our bags to the door.
“Something lined up just a bit too perfectly for all this,” Carl looked at me curiously. He opened the door to his apartment and let me out to drop the bag against the wall in the hallway as he turned off the lights and locked up.
“How would you have felt, if you weren’t a Simil, to find out I was a Dewey?” I asked.
“I probably would have been terrified. You…you’ve been so good about all this, Gracey. I can’t even manage to grasp how you’ve tolerated me and all this,” he set his duffle on the carryon.
“I wasn’t raised with a Simil, or some social pressure to find them creepy, so there’s no prejudice there,” I explained.
“It is a prejudice. It’s allowed, if not outright enforced. It makes it so that everyone has something to focus on so that they can keep from picking on each other for shallow things like race or gender identity,” he leaned up against the wall next to me.
“You seem a bit better,” I scooted next to him.
“I’m getting better about the whole thing,” he admitted shyly. He turned to a shuffle of feet come from down the hall. He ducked his head down to me. His eyes, ever mesmerizing in their heterochromia captured my gaze as he leaned in. “I’ll always love you, Gracey. I’ll see you when we get back. Take care of Hatter for me, he seems as pent up as I am,” he whispered against my lips. I closed my eyes, savoring the taste of him. His nostalgic warmth flooded my lungs. I could feel the difference in his carriage when Hatter took over. The kiss deepened into an unrelenting demand. A spark lit behind my lungs. He pressed into me, his body demanding I become one with him.
My fingers tingled in anticipation as I ran my fingers along his sides, the fabric changing texture. I lifted my gaze and caught Hatter’s hungry glance. A beaver fur top hat with a bill of sale in the celery silk band sat precariously on his head. A crushed hunter green velvet frock coat, celery waistcoat and matched trousers, cut to his lean figure, replaced his black shirt and jeans. A champagne ruffled shirt was offset with onyx buttons.
A cough interrupted us. I blinked. Hatter’s eyes flashed to the direction of the noise and his costume disappeared back to his regular jeans and shirt. “Damn the man,” he muttered to me.
“Seventh layer of hell?” I offered.
“I was thinking the Queen of Hearts,” he smiled to me. We both looked at Roger. “Oh, that’s just cruel,” I returned the smile.
“Could go with the Duchess’s piglet,” he teased.
“I’ll keep it in mind,” I picked up one of the bags. He picked up the other one. Roger was staring at us like we had grown two heads.
It took a moment for him to find his broken voice. “Shall we go?” he motioned us back up the hallway he had just come down.
“Where to?” I asked as we began walking.
“Roswell,” he supplied, being more at ease having us to his back.
“Oh, aliens?” I pressed. This could be amusing.
“Not Area 51, if that’s what you’re hoping. There’s a small church out near a pecan and pinion orchard that’s been producing some interesting results,” he handed a file over to Simil.
Simil flipped the cover open to see a mass congregation under a yellow and orange striped canvas tent. The people were facing a stage at one end of the tent. On it was what had to be the most cliche fire and brimstone preacher there ever was. He was glowing. Small orbs floated in the pictures – what I would have usually attributed to dust motes. What caught both of our eyes though was a woman sitting on a step at the end of the stage. She was furtively captivated in her book, her lips just barely whispering.
Simil and I glanced at each other. “Cheryl?” I asked him.
“No, it’s Barbara. She worked with Cheryl before ending up in a car crash. Roger, wasn’t she dead?” Simil flipped through the files, finding the death certificate and autopsy photos of the woman sitting on the riser steps. There wasn’t much left for the autopsy photo.
“We were only able to identify her by her dental records. It’s unprecedented. Currently the Chair is between Barbara being a zombie, a ghost, or now in possession of a very good pair of dentures,” Roger kept up a quick pace.
“Ghost, zombie?” I turned to Simil. “Wait, so who’s this Alexander Campbell looking guy?” I asked him.
“Not Alexander Campbell, though good guess. We’re thinking it’s Benjamin Randall. We haven’t been able to get a good pin as to if he is a real person or if Barbara is producing him,” Roger admitted.
“So, if Barbara is a zombie and Randall is a Read, then, does that mean Barbara is a Read too if she’s a zombie?” I fumbled around that sentence.
“Cheryl had the ability to produce rather morbid Reads more readily than others. We never saw her produce a zombie that was based on a real person, but that’s not to say it can’t be done. She does have a Ph.D in Carribean art history. She very well may have found some useful texts from Haiti in her studies,” Roger unlocked a door that lead out to a massive parking garage.
I was stunned. Freedom from this rats nest had been that flippin’ close! A sleek, black sudan with heavily tinted windows was waiting for us at the door. Roger opened up the back seat door for us. I was gaining the impression that he was a glorified butler, though I think he would have been offended if I had said such to him.
“Tell me we’re not sharing the same hotel room,” I muttered to Simil as I nodded to Roger.
“We usually share the same room. Cut’s costs,” Roger answered with a huff.
This is the end of this version of Life of a Librarian. I can’t relate to the MC as she is now and just want to crack open this story and rewrite it to fit me and my personality better now. I hope you’re okay with this sudden cliff hanger and will hold on for when I can get this story reworked.
RT @ThorntonGibsonK: I can’t wait to read what happens next in The Kavordian Library! – #scifi, #fantasy, #webseries #booksTweet