Friday, October 13, 2017

New Beginnings - Episode 17

Soft humming brought Ember back to consciousness. She felt confused and disoriented. She wanted to let her eyes fly open and see where she was but apprehension made her keep them tightly shut. She could feel that she was lying down and what felt like little strands of something were moving against her, tickling her bare arms and feet. She became aware that her head was resting on someone’s lap and that person was stroking her hair. She laid there, letting herself listen to the sounds around her and her rapidly beating heart. She willed her heart to slow to a normal beat. As her heart beat slowed, she heard a faint chuckle, “What a beautiful mind you have. Always so active.”

As she slowly opened her eyes, she realized they were in a field and it was Elpis whose lap her head rested in. All apprehension immediately dissipated and relief washed over Ember. Then just as suddenly a dozen questions began to pop into Ember’s mind, causing Elpis to chuckle once more. 

Sitting up, she lets the thoughts popping in her head rush out of her mouth. “How did I end up here? What happened at Fortress Twig? Where are all the others? Are they okay? Did the portal work? Of course it must have worked. I’m here, aren’t I?”  Ember blushed and smiled sheepishly.

“What do you remember?”

Ember thought for a moment, “well…the portal was ready, so Bridget and I were going to gather a group of people we thought we could trust and form a plan on how to get everyone out… and then… I don’t remember anything else, but I woke up here. I don’t understand how I got here.”

“As in regular life, you go through journeys and experiences to evolve into your higher self and to aid others on their journeys. This realm is no different. In some ways it may challenge you more because you will encounter things here that you would not have imagined in the real world.”

“So this wasn’t, isn’t real? It was all like a dream?” Ember interjected.

“Dreams are very real, but no, it wasn’t a dream. You were there and you’re experiences were real. You are no longer there because the lessons you had to learn were complete; therefore you were transported back to this field. You may notice there are now only eight doors. Through each door, you will go on a journey to learn specific skills or things about yourself.”

“Once I have gone through all of them, does that mean I get to go home again?” Ember queried with hope in her voice.

“Of that, I do not have the answer. A wise man once said, “When the time is right, the answer will come.” He understood that although you often have questions, the universe will provided the answers when you are ready for them and not before.”

“Oh, I’m so ready for the answers and I have a million questions.”

 Elpis chuckled. “Just because one thinks they are ready, does not mean they are. Why don’t you tell me what you think your time in Fortress Twig taught you?”

“Hmm, what it taught me…well, I learned that there really are evil people out there. That you can get trapped in places…oh, that I can’t always control the things around me?”

“Those sound more like questions, than lessons learned. Let’s look at it another way. I want you to focus only on how you felt. Tell me what you felt from when you arrived there until you woke up here,” Elpis encouraged. 

“Before I opened the door and went through I was very nervous. I didn’t know what was on the other side and I don’t like surprises or not being in control. When I first walked through it was fascinating and these women came up to me who seemed so nice, I thought it was going to be a fun adventure and I was excited. Then when they took me inside, it felt really cold and I felt a strange sense of dread that I didn’t understand until I had been there a little while. It was confusing and overwhelming and I felt trapped and dismissed. I was frustrated and angry. How dare they trap me there and tell me I had no control over anything. Then I felt horrified and sad for the ones who were being picked on and disappearing, which made me angry again. I felt helpless to do anything for them. I couldn’t even help myself. Then I got this message on the computer from this guy named Seth, and felt a surge of curiosity and hope. Once we started planning how to escape, my adrenaline started going. I let myself trust a few people and take a chance that they weren’t all bad. I was happily surprise to be putting a team together. I almost felt like I could be a leader, and I felt a sense of purpose and freedom. I don’t know what happened and I woke up here, so I guess I’m not much of a teamster or leader after all,” Ember said, ending with a frown and sigh.

Elpis just smiled and waited.

“Man, I’m just all over the place, aren’t I? This is why I keep to myself most of the time. People shouldn’t depend on me. I don’t know why I have been chosen for this. I feel bad for I felt such relief when I realized I was out of that place and then guilt because I should have thought of the others first.”

Elpis took Embers hand and they began to walk. “I think you learned a great deal, but you let your doubts overshadow what is right before you. You have great potential but you must learn to trust your instincts and your feelings. You will make a great leader one day if you allow yourself to be one. You deny who you are and your accomplishments. Is it because you feel unworthy of them or do you fear them, maybe fear failing so you would rather play it safe?” Ember smiled sheepishly. “I already know this about you, but you need to recognize who you are and what is inside you. You can’t deceive yourself and hope to grow into the champion of others you are destine to because. That means you must accept your flaws and mistakes. Learn from them and let them show you how they have helped you on your journey so far. Next you must believe in yourself. Your doubt is what traps you.”

“My doubt in myself is what is holding me back,” Ember thought about this. “I can see how that is true. Fortress Twig was meant to show me how I hold myself back because of self-doubts and not trusting what my intuition tells me.”

“And…” Elpis prompted.

“I should embrace becoming a leader?”

Elpis laughed. “Well that will come with time and confidence. When you believe in yourself you can make things happen. Others will believe in you and follow you. The other thing you have learned is that you don’t have to hide yourself from the world. Yes, it was safe to stay locked in your little room, but in order to grow, you must step out of your comfort zone, take risks, trust others and let them in. There will be those who will hurt you and betray your trust. It is hard to allow yourself to be exposed and vulnerable, but it is through those experiences that you grow. If you follow your heart and your… how do humans say it…your gut, you will discover you are more talented and stronger than you give yourself credit for.  Fortress Twig is a prison, but is a prison you allow yourself to be trapped in. Once you begin to believe in yourself, the walls of that prison...”

“Disappear!” Ember finished for her. “I trap myself by my own mind. That a makes sense. I will work on that. I have to be honest, though, I’m not good at believing in me. I don’t see what you and others do.”

“Baby steps. You will get there. I believe in you!” 

With that, they had stopped walking and Ember realized they were now in the center of a circle with the eight remaining doors. “I have to choose another one now, don’t I?”

“Yes. It is time for me to leave and for you to continue your journey. You will eventually go through each of these doors, allow this to be your guide,” she said as she placed her hand on Ember’s heart and then disappeared. 

Which door will Ember choose to go through next and what is waiting on the other side….

Friday, January 9, 2015

Episode 16c- Fortress Twig- Setting the Escape in Motion

Ember, are you there?

Finally. Although it was only a few hours, it seemed like an eternity.

Ember quickly typed, I’m here.

Miss me? lol, just kidding.  I think I have everything we need on my end set up. Once I open the rift, I don’t know how long it will stay open. It may be permanent or it may collapse after a time, but you should have at least 30 minutes, so I won’t set it in motion until I know you are somewhat ready on your end. Now on your side it may be a little tricky. I have done a little research and there are some people you can go to there. They will help. They are good people and stand up for those who have been wrongly targeted in the past. Do you know Anthony West, Jessie Blesswick, John Manor, Greta Clementine, Mark Madison and Crystal Reeves?

Ember glanced around and visually located the people Seth mentioned. She had not been introduced to them but she knew who they were.

Crystal is my supervisor and I know who the others are. I was warned that Crystal is very loyal and dedicated to the company and I don’t know if I can trust her. I do have someone I think I can trust to help but having more will definitely be an asset. How many can we take with us?

 It is good that you already know someone. From what I gathered, Crystal is very loyal, however she is a champion for others and is selfless. She will do what is in the best interest of those she cares for. You can consider all six champions. They may seem to follow the company line but they have ways of looking out for others without the bad ones noticing. There are many around you who are good, but these are the ones who go out of their way to do the right thing.

Do you know where the elevator is and can you access it unseen?  That is where the rift will be. There seems to be a strange power source in its location. You will need to send it up to another floor, then pull open the outer doors from outside once it has ascended. There will be a void underneath where rests at the bottom of the shaft. You jump into that void. I have no way of knowing where it will come out but you will be free of that place. I don’t know how many can go through or if you will all end up in the same place. Those going with you should know the risk. I’ll wait for you to get ready before I open the rift.

 OK. But wait… I have so many questions I’d like to ask you. I don’t know if I will be able to at a later time. Like how can you see? Can anyone else? Can you get a message to my family? Why are you helping me?

Well… I don’t know really. I write code and programs. Do a little hacking here and there, but don’t tell anyone that. I seem to have stumbled on a thread that is connected to you somehow. I can follow it and find you sometimes. I haven’t been able to figure out how it works or maybe I can do more. I believe you are stuck in cyber space somehow, so if I can track you to the website you are in, then I can usually write something into the site. If when you leave this place you are still in the cyber dimension then I should be able to reach you, although we may not be able to communicate directly like this. I haven’t seen any signs of anyone else tracking you, so I don’t think anyone else can see you the way I can. As for your family, I can definitely get a message to them, but they may think I’m a crazy person. I’ll just need a name.

Hmm. That sorta makes sense I guess. Her name is Elspeth Innocenzi in Epirotes Falls and she won’t think you’re crazy. She’s very eccentric and is a psychic. Now my brother and sisters, they would probably think you were crazy, but if you can contact Aunt Elspeth, she can tell the others. I just want them to know I’m okay, so not to worry, I’ll be home before they know it. I hope at least. Also that I miss them and that I love them.

Thank you for doing this. It means the world to me. Okay, I’m going to go round up my champions. I’ll let you know when we are ready to go.

Ember locked her computer screen and went to find Bridget.

After talking with Bridget, they decided to divide and conquer. Ember went to Anthony, Jessie and John, while Bridget talked to Greta, Mark and Crystal. The plan was for everyone to meet in the break room in 30 minutes to plot their escape.


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Episode 16b- Fortress Twig Continued ...

It had been a few weeks since Ember became trapped in Fortress Twig. In that time, she had gotten to know a few of her fellow workers and explored a little. They worked on the main floor which was actually the second floor. The floor below was where they took breaks, ate and slept. Their food was earned based on the work they performed or their rank, which caused a bit of jealousy among the few regular workers who did little work and instead spent their time gossiping and worried about what others received. Since only a select few were able to go outside, a schedule was set up that gave them a chance to eat and get a few hours of sleep at a time. At their desks everyone was supplied with a strange tasting drink called, Jiza. They were encouraged to drink this to give them extra energy and improve their health, however, like most of the others, Ember chose to drink water instead.

Ember was able to move around freely and could go between the main and lower floor using one of the stairways on either side of the building. In the center, there was an elevator. She was told this took you to the third floor but only the Tri-powers used that floor and those invited up. In the past couple of weeks she had seen small groups of people taken up by their supervisors. They were always excited or curious when invited up but when they returned they were silent, emaciated and their skin grayish. They would shuffle back to their pods like sleep walkers. Usually a few days later, Marla would come, get them and they wouldn’t be seen again. That is when new people would show up to take their empty seats.

The supervisors who escorted the groups up to the third floor seemed unaffected. They would come back smiling and laughing with each other. Whispering as they looked around for the next victims. That is how Ember thought of them. They were victims and she was determined she was not going to be one of them. She would figure out a way out of this place and help as many as she could escape with her.

She quickly learned that the only people on her team she could trust were Crystal and Jessica. Tasha, Anita and Carla spent a lot of time with Greta in her office socializing and conspiring against others. When they weren’t there, they were complaining to Jessica and Crystal or taking one of their many breaks. Bridgett was never included in their group but she seemed to be oblivious and remained a bouncing ray of sunshine. Shamra was the rain to her sun. Ember felt sorry for her. She was always crying and trying to fit in with the others. They would pretend to include her and then belittle her.  Crystal seemed to do more work than anyone else and she was always getting picked on by the others. Still she remained loyal and positive. Jessica also stayed busy, and although everyone seemed to adore her, people were constantly going in her office to complain about others and point fingers when they didn’t finish their work. You could tell the stress of being everyone’s sounding board was wearing her down. Out of all the supervisors, Crystal and Jessica never took groups upstairs. Crystal stayed too busy covering for her team members who didn’t do their own work. Ember got the impression that Jessica’s demeanor was too sweet to handle what happened upstairs, so she avoided that task and left it to those who seemed to relish their power over others.

Ember used every opportunity during the past few weeks to work on her new found gift of mind reading. It didn’t always work, but she discovered that if she looked directly at the person when they spoke she could hear bits of what they really thought or meant. There was a great deal of deception that went on, some with ill intent and some just for survival.

She learned that although Shamra went along with Tasha and cried way too much, that deep down she was just a lost soul with a good heart. She truly cared about others and in a different environment she could have flourished. Tasha of course wanted everyone to think she was perfect and always cheerful. In reality she was extremely insecure and hateful. Ember pitied her because Tasha’s thoughts betrayed that she felt she had to put others down in order to make herself feel better. She walked around talking about the Bible and how pious and religious she was, but her actions belied who she really was. It made Ember wonder what damaged her so much that she had turned into the viper she was. Then there was Carla. Carla wanted everyone to take care of her. She complained about everyone and everything. Her friendship with Greta seemed to be the only thing saving her, although Crystal and Jessica often went to bat for her and tried to make life easier for her. Often sacrificing their own rations for her. She was hard to be around because she never took responsibility for herself and always complained.

But Anita was the one that gave Ember chills. She was soulless, literally. She was very quiet and seemed to keep to herself, but it was obvious she had a hidden agenda and more control over the floor than anyone realized. There was an emptiness to her that sucked the life out of those around her. She was good at hiding it from the others. They others did not realize what evil really lurked behind her quiet demeanor. It was how she manipulated people into doing what she wanted. She always kept her cell phone with her and Ember suspected it was really more than just an ordinary phone. In the one conversation Ember had with her, Anita had given her a satanic bible and told her they should study together. When Ember told her she didn't believe in Satan but did believe in evil, Anita had been offended. She told Ember there was no such thing as right or wrong and that people worried too much about consequences.

Crystal was the one she worried about the most. She only heard kind and loyal thoughts from her. She would get frustrated with herself and her team’s lack of work ethic but she remained supportive of them no matter what was thrown at her. Her team however was not so supportive. While most pretended to be on her side, their thoughts betrayed their true intentions. Tasha, Carla and even Greta were all extremely jealous of her and were plotting against her. Shamra and Jessica were clueless to the plotting but were being pulled into her demise. While Greta thought she was the great mastermind behind all that went on, Tasha was her puppet master and played her like a well-oiled instrument. But what none of them realized was that Anita was the one pulling all the strings. She was crafty and sly. She had orchestrated everyone so that if things went south she would appear innocent and while the other three took the brunt of any fallout.

Ember was becoming frustrated with herself. Patience had never been her strong suit, but she had always been able to find the positives in life. This place brought her down; it drowned positive thoughts and energy. She hated getting caught up in all the drama and deception. So in her free moments she searched for ways to escape but had yet to find any. She thought about venturing to the third floor, thinking there might be a way out there. She knew that was a risk. She didn’t want to get selected for one of the groups. The life force was sucked out of those people and they came back as mindless drones. She also didn’t want to become a supervisor and then have to take others up there. She had to find a way to sneak up without being seen. It was a risk, but she felt she was out of options where she was.

As if someone read her mind, her computer screen flashed and a small black box appeared in the lower corner. Script began filling the box. Ember glanced around and realized no one else noticed. When the script stopped, she read it to herself.

Ember, I believe I can help you escape this place but you must not tell anyone else there

Ember moved her cursor to the box and typed, Who is this? How can you help?

I’m Seth. I don’t know how to explain it, but I am back in your real world. I’m a programmer and I have been able to watch you on your journey. I sent Illustria to you before. I think I can create a rift in that world that will give you an escape. Only… I don’t know where it will take you.

Ember stared at the screen and thought about what this Seth person was offering. It was so tempting before all of this started she would have jumped at the chance. But now she knew more was at stake. She was supposed to learn things from these experiences. Yes, she discovered if she focused she could read some thoughts, but her gut told her there was something more she was to learn from being here.
She began typing back, Hi Seth. I do want to escape this place and it’s okay that we don’t know where I will end up… But I can’t just leave. There are some people here that are good and they will be destroyed. I have to be able to take them with me. I think I am here to help them so I can’t just abandon them. Can you help me save them?

Ember stared at the screen waiting for his reply. She wondered what all he saw and how he was able to see her when there was no other connection to her former world. She wondered if he could contact her family for her. She wondered who was controlling all this.

After what seemed an eternity the script began to flow again in the box.
I don’t know how long I can create the rift for or how many could get through. You would be risking yourself and it may not turn out as we plan, but I can try. I have been able to catch glimpse of where you are and some of the people there. You must be very careful who you trust. There are those not connected to the evil there but many are scared and would betray you to save themselves. I will have to know how many you want to take with you, but don’t say anything to them yet. I will re-open this dialog box when I have some instructions. Be on the look out and be careful.
With that the box disappeared from the screen.
Ember took the time to figure out who she should try to take and if there were any that she could trust to tell. She may have to figure out a way to deceive them into following her. It was not a tactic she was comfortable with, but she was ready to do it if it meant saving them. She knew she must to get Crystal out. Too many were plotting her demise. She felt Jessica and Shamra needed to escape too. There were a handful of others who were recruiters or on different teams that she had sensed a pure heart in. She worked on her list, her thoughts wondering on what he meant by a rift and how it would work. In the meantime she continued entering the names and information of those the Fortress was targeting, hoping that they would be able to avoid what this place had planned for them. She said a protection chant for those she entered. She didn’t know if it would work but they said she was a witch and that’s what witches did in movies and TV, so maybe it would work.
Bridget must have overheard Ember’s chant, because she rolled her seat back to Ember’s desk and asked, “What’s that?”
Ember jumped. “What’s what?”
“That thing you say over and over. I notice you do that when you are entering data and I was just curious.”
Ember stared at Bridget for a moment before answering. She was trying to read her thoughts and see if there was a hidden agenda behind her asking. She heard absolutely nothing and realized that Bridget was guileless. She said and did exactly what she meant. “Do you like it here?” she asked.
Bridget shrugged her shoulders, “Not especially, but it’s not too bad, if you keep to yourself and do the work. I don’t really mind the work although I do wonder about all these people we type in. They all think I’m an airhead, because I just happily do my work. I know more than they realize. Besides, gingers have to stick together, right?”
Ember decided to take a chance and trust Bridget. Maybe the fact that her hair was fiery too, was a sign.
“It’s like a prayer…what you heard. I can’t help but feel bad about entering these people’s names so I say a little rhyme I made up in my head. It’s probably silly, but it’s my way of trying to protect them from this place.”

“It’s not silly at all. I like that. I’ve been watching you. You don’t belong here, but you are blending in pretty well. That’s a good thing. Those that don’t do what they are told get taken upstairs.”
“I’ve seen that. What happens to them? Have you been up there?” Ember asked.

“I have been up there a few times. Once a month they have a gathering and everyone goes up. They make some announcements and give everyone cake. Sometimes small groups are detained and taken into the offices up there. You’ve seen what happens to those. They come back like zombies. The Tri-powers are up there and they use the life force of the ones they drain. They take all their memories and hope, so that they have no will.  The Tri-powers have a small network of ‘managers’ that work among us and take people up who are not meeting expectations, who rebel or who they just don’t like. It is best to try to stay on their good side. Don’t make waves and meet your goals. That’s the only way they will leave you alone. Do what I do, always act happy and obedient and you can stay under the radar. At least, until they decide you work against you because they are bored.” She glanced over at Crystal with a look of sadness.
“Does anyone ever escape?” There, she threw it out there to see Bridget’s reaction. Bridget looked around and laughed as if Ember had said something funny. She then leaned a little closer and said, “Not since I have been here. Be careful, if they suspect you are going to try they will eliminate you.”

She looked deep into Ember’s eyes, “You are going to try, aren’t you?” She didn’t wait for a response, “take me with you and I’ll help. But we have to take Crystal. She won’t last much longer. They have it out for her”
Part of Ember worried, this could be a set-up and part of her was relieved that she may have found an ally.

“I haven’t figured it out yet but I’m working on it. I’m just not sure who to trust.”
“Trust no one. Well, you can trust me, but tell no one of your plans. Especially not Crystal or Jessica. I can get them to come with us. Crystal is too dedicated, and Jessica is too loyal to management. If you tell them, they would tell to try and save you. Their intentions are always honorable, but they are too naïve to the evil that surrounds them. Just tell me what you need me to do.” With that she shook Ember’s hand and then grabbed one of her pens. “Thanks, for the pen. Red ink is my fave.” she said loudly, waving the pen as she rolled back to her desk.

The hours passed slowly as Ember anxiously waited to hear back from Seth. Several groups had been taken to the third floor and she was worried that time was running out for those she needed to save.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Episode 16a- Fortress Twig Continued

After Ember’s testing had been concluded, Marla had pricked her finger and taken a sample of her blood explaining it was just procedure. She then called a girl name, Jessica, to come get her.

As Ember walked with Jessica back to the area she had been in before, she thought she could hear whispering. It was so faint that she couldn’t make out the words. Beside her, Jessica, smiled and chatted with the few people they passed. Everyone seemed to brighten a little when Jessica showed them attention. It was easy to see why. Jessica was what Ember thought a real life Barbie doll would look like. She was tall and slim, with long pale blonde hair framing a sweet round face with perfect features. Ember instantly felt at ease with her. She felt genuine and Ember suspected that was a rare quality in this place. The only hint of something off was her eyes. Although they smiled when she did and there appeared to be a weariness in their depths.

They crossed near the entrance where Ember had been brought into the building and she saw Marla directing a dozen or so individuals into a small chamber between the inside of the building and the doors that would lead out. Ember looked back the way they had come, confused. Marla was just back there, she thought. How can she be here?

Everyone but Marla looked sad and anxious. Marla shut the door behind them as the last person entered and then turned the lock. She smiled at them and waved through the glass of the doors as a mist began to fill the vestibule. The people inside frantically tried to open the outer doors or come back through the doors Marla guarded to no avail. After a few moments, all the people vanished and Marla unlocked the inner door.

Ember had stopped and was staring at the scene, when Jessica tugged lightly on her arm, urging her to continue.

“You don’t want to stay there,” she said.

“What just happened to those people?”

“Those were the new hires from the outside. If they stay here for ninety days then they gain power and the Tri-powers can’t have that, so they are destroyed,” Jessica explained with a tear in her eye.

“Destroyed! What do you mean destroyed? Why don’t they just let them leave? And what power can they gain? What is this place?!” Ember exclaimed.

“SHHHH,” Jessica looked around to make sure no one had overheard.  She then quietly explained how large groups of people were lured in every few months and then over the course of eighty-nine days they were extinguished. There were a few who made it past that time because they possessed a quality that could be used or exploited. Then there was a handful who were close to the Tri-powers or held some secret they used as leverage to gain power.

“Most of us want to leave but are trapped here for one reason or another, so some of us try to make the best of it and look out for the others. Just try to keep to yourself, do the work you are given and you will be okay. I will try to steer you towards the few people you can trust. Unfortunately, most that will try to appear as friends will not be. If you are in doubt ask me or Crystal. Crystal will be the one training you and directly supervising your work. It will be okay.”

Ember walked beside Jessica silently as she tried to digest all that she had seen and heard so far in this place that seemed more like a prison with each passing moment. She could still hear the faint whispering in the background and looked around for the source. They had reached the main work room with all the pods of workers. Everyone appeared to be working silently at their desks. Jessica led Ember to the pod where Shamra and Anita were seated. Jessica walked over to the heavy set lady on the end and introduced her as Crystal.

“You can sit with me for now. Let me grab you a chair.” Crystal jumped up and brought a chair from a glass room nearby. “I’ll show you how our system works. Marla said your data skills are very high according to your test. That means you’ll do really well here.”  And hopefully you’ll survive longer than the others.

Ember blinked as she understood the whispering for the first time and realized that Crystal had not said the last part aloud. She could still hear the muffled sound of more whispers but couldn’t make out anything else.

“I’ll introduce you to the rest of our team before we get to work. We all have to work together and help each other so that we reach optimum productivity. That keeps us all safe. Jessica and I do everything we can to keep the team safe.” Crystal said with a warm smile.

Next to them, Anita snorted. Naïve little Crystal. You can’t protect anyone no matter how much you try. And new blood means even less work for me to pretend to do.

“Excuse me?”  When Anita frowned at her, it dawned on Ember that her lips had not moved. She realized she had heard Anita’s thoughts when she looked at her.

“Well, you’ve already met Anita and Shamra.” Crystal motioned to the two women on the left. Anita had turned her back to them and was playing with what looked like a cell phone. Shamra was typing while crying. “Don’t mind her, she cries all the time. She’s okay, it’s just her thing.”

She turned to the right, “This is Carla. She will help with any additional training. You have already met Tasha and that’s Bridget on the end.” Carla had her head down and was cursing at her computer. Tasha was busy polishing her fingernails a bright red, while Bridget appeared to be working happily. “You will be sitting behind Bridget once I show you the system.”

“Who are all the others?” Ember asked motioning to the room full of people.

“Those are the recruiters. It’s their job to bring in more people by selling our services.”

“What services do you sell?”

“Whatever a person needs. It’s their job to find out what a person needs and what they are willing to sacrifice for it. You don’t need to concern yourself with that. Knowing too much is frowned upon here. Everyone is expected to focus on their work and not what others are doing.” Unless you’re one of Greta’s pets at this pod. Crystal added, “Let me show you what you will be doing.”

They sat down at Crystal’s desk and she demonstrated the data system they used. Ember’s job would be to help input the information of possible lost souls the recruiters could exploit and to analyze how well they did their work. Crystal explained that it wasn’t their job to help the recruiters, but that she always tried to do what she could to look after them, as their goals were often unrealistic and those that didn’t meet their goals got ‘counselled’. She also explained that Ember would probably hear things from others but she should just stick to her work and not get involved in the drama others created.

“I’ve been here for a few years and I get a little freedom, because I do my work and make sure things on this floor run smoothly. Most people don’t last very long on our team and unfortunately the newest members don’t pull their weight, so we have to work harder to cover for them.” Crystal sighed tiredly as she said this.

As she walked Ember to her appointed desk, Carla announced she needed another cigarette and she left the area with Anita. From her new seat, she could hear Shamra crying and Tasha talking to someone on the phone, explaining how she was perfect and didn’t understand why no one would acknowledge that.

Bridget rolled over to her, said hi and started chatting.

Almost instantly, Greta materialized beside them. “Get back to work Bridget. I don’t know why they let such a useless worker in. If you don’t improve, I’ll be forced to send you upstairs. You know I don’t want to but they will make me.” She had an evil smile on her face that belied the look of innocence she tried to convey.

Ember concentrated on trying to hear her thoughts. She got nothing but the indecipherable whispering and thought maybe she had been wrong about hearing the others. She looked directly into Greta’s eyes, which were black and soulless. She thought she heard the a few syllables but then Greta scowled and there was a deafening silence.

“I’m watching you, Ember. You need me to be your friend. I control what happens on this floor.” With that warning, Greta walked back to her desk.

With a friend like that, who would need enemies! With that thought Ember sat down and started entering the piles of information stacked in her section.
Come back next week to find out what Ember will discover on the third floor and will she be able to find a way out of this dimension...