Footfalls echoed around me, paired with the unevenness of my breath. The security door clicked shut behind me, but I didn’t slow. Up the grand staircase, to the end of the hall, up the spiral staircase, finally stopping when the library door shut behind me. The musty sent of old books and a space rarely disturbed filled my nose. Heavy curtains covered the windows, only a vague, shadowing spattering of shapes being visible. I felt my way around the edge of the room, pulling away the thick fabric to reveal a quaint study.
I weaved around the chairs and desk and tables, scanning the bookshelves as I went. I’d fun across the files an era ago, and my brain wasn’t willing to pinpoint where, or where they’d ended up. It was like swimming through a pool of molasses memories. I focused my search in the corner opposite the main body of windows. I dug away binders, boxes of photos and even a picture album. For the first time the thought of my mom’s pictures couldn’t distract me. I shuffled through a pile of documentations, abandoning it to the side to continue my frantic search.
Charts, articles, logs, even a medical record, but none of the files I wanted. The papers slipped by in a blur, my eyes frantically trying to find a recognizable sketch, or familiar journal entry, or anything, any of the remains of my grandfather’s research.
Our legacy. My father had said that it was my family’s legacy.
I couldn’t believe that it could be true. I wouldn’t believe that it could become my legacy too.
A dark spot appeared on the paper in front of me, then another. I hurriedly wiped the tears off my cheeks and turned to the next case of papers. My hands shook as I read the first line. It was dated fifty two years prior, one February the 3rd, with a watermark reading Hawke and Blackwell Sciences.
I flipped to the next page, then skipped to the back of the section, landing on a journal entry dated September 22nd.
New designs coming together nicely. Eliot still worries about overloading the containment system, but energy hasn’t seemed too uncontainable so far. Should be ready for a preliminary test tomorrow, granted the involuntary harvesting prototype can be finished in time. Once again struck by the possibilities of converting the ethereal energy contained in Eliot…
The scrawling script continued down the page, ending with the signature of Rodger F. Blackwell. I set the journal entries to the side, carefully opening a manila envelope. A pile of sketches and engineering notes and schematics fell into my lap. The top piece was startling familiar. A diagram filled half the page, depicting a metal contraption, a mess of tubes and wires, fashioned into a sort of cuff.
The same device was no doubt clamped to Malachi’s arms at that moment.
I hastily read through the notes, in my grandfather’s same script, describing the energy harvesting device, an attached paper discussing the limited success they were able to manage. Occasionally a foreign handwriting would occupy a section of the paper, talking about the aftereffects of the device.
At the bottom of the page big block letters pronounced experimentation with the particular device “Ceased until further notice.”
One block of text caught my attention. My grandfather wrote about how Eliot was willing and eager to continue the trials, although cautious of the energy’s true power. How losing the energy rendered dream travelling a much more difficult task, although he was willing to brave the depletion. I knew of Eliot. I’d spent enough time with my paternal grandmother to hear stories of her husband and his best friend. Eliot and Rodger had been friends since childhood, and worked together until the day they died, in a tragic accident at their lab.
September 23. That had been the day they died. I always remembered because it’d been the day before my grandparent’s anniversary. My grandma also dedicated the two days as a memorial.
I pulled the journal entry back into my lap, the date sending shivers down my spine. Harvesting energy, the cuffs, it was all too horribly apparent. My father was continuing their work, whether they intended it or not.
I trekked onward through the paperwork, glancing over countless records and data sets, before succumbing to the numb absence of thought. None of it shed any more light on the project, or what was really going on, or what Eliot was. What Malachi had to be.
When the ache in my legs and back became too great I moved to one of the chairs, carefully depositing the papers on the nearest side table. Everything just swam about in my head, muddling what thoughts I could manage, and preventing all others. Just before sleep’s tendrils pulled my consciousness away I came to the conclusion that I had to talk to Malachi. That I had to figure out what was really happening to him, and help.
My dreams were dark.
The sun was brushing the tree tops when I finally woke. My legs were stiff, my arm half asleep. The study had grown cold, and my joints ached as I uncurled and rose from the chair. I gingerly pushed back towards the door, ignoring the mess of documents. When I finally emerged into the kitchen my plans with Sylvia reemerged.
“You know, darling, if you didn’t want to go, you could have told me.” There was no hint of accusation in her voice, just a subtle questioning of what was really going on.
“I just realized that I really needed to meditate.” I rambled quickly. Sylvia held fast to the belief that time alone in silence could heal most emotional conditions.
“Well, you missed lunch, would you like a snack?”
“Sure,” I muttered, taking a seat on one of the stools.
“How about a salad? Or a bowl of soup? Some cheese and crackers? A bit of fruit?”
“Chicken noodle soup.”
“Chicken noodle soup it is.”
I let my elbow rest on the countertop, propping up my heavy head. I watched without seeing as Sylvia prepared the soup, humming a happy, off key tune.
“Has… has my father come up?” I finally asked.
“Oh yes, darling. He didn’t say much, but it seemed that they’d run into a problem with the research. He drove in to headquarters a bit less than an hour ago.”
A chuckle escaped my lips. Malachi had managed to succeed somehow.
The pessimist in me immediately stated that even when he wasn’t failing, Malachi wasn’t succeeding. He was just prolonging the torture.
“Now deary, is there anything else I can do for you?” The hot bowl of soup was slid in front of me, its aroma causing my mouth to water. “I’m glad you got some quiet time. It’ll do you good, but sometimes talking does you good too.”
“Dad and I have been… disagreeing lately.” I said slowly.
“Well, have you done anything to offend him?”
“You could say that…”
“Then you ought to apologize, darling.”
I stared back. She didn’t know the scope of the situation, and her suggestion sounded ludicrous.
“I know it’s not the easiest thing to do, but it will help. Perhaps you could just write an apology? That makes it easier sometimes. Think it over, alright, deary?”
“Okay.” I focused on my soup, chasing the little noodles in their salty, savory bath. When the last of the broth found its way into my stomach I set the bowl aside and drifted to my room.
I figured, even with my father gone, I’d have to wait till nightfall, and even then it’d be sketchy. I wouldn’t doubt the addition of a night guard.
When time finally melting into evening I emerged, tiptoeing down the stairs and to the security door. I said what might have counted as a prayer if I had known God then swiped my security pass. I padded down the steps, taking a deep breath before sliding my security pass to open the second security door.
The lab was dim, just the security lights offering any illumination. I stiffened as I saw a figure move.
“Scarlett?” The question made me jump, Drew’s face quickly materializing in front of me. “What are you doing here?”
“I need to speak to him.” I said with determination.
“You’re father’s not—“
“Not my father. With him,” I interrupted.
“What? Scarlett, I can’t let you… I mean, I’m supposed to be guarding, and well,” He stuttered, leaving the sentence hanging.
“Drew, you know this is wrong, you know it shouldn’t be happening. At least let me talk to him. That’s the least you can do.” I took a step towards Malachi’s cell, and he hesitantly moved to block me.
“Scarlett, it… it didn’t get better after you left.” His eyes were full of a guilty anguish. “I want to help you, but—“
“Then help me!” I struggled to keep my voice from cracking. “Drew, please, I have to do this.”
“This never happened. Don’t worry.”
I pushed past him, shaking as I approached the observation room leading to Malachi’s cell. It took two tries to successfully swipe the security door, terrified of what I would find on the other side.