Lune was talking nonsense, sounding rather paranoid. But sometimes she did crazy-seeming things like checking the sinks in the middle of the night. I didn’t mind, I loved her and supported her in everything. And if she thought there was something going on at Acinert and Ancora then I believed her. Mostly.
In the morning she was pretty quiet as we got the kids ready for school. The boys were arguing about something and Viola insisted she needed new shoes. I pointed out that she had gotten new shoes a couple months ago.
“But I need sparkly shoes!” she whined. “Sparkly shoes, that’s what the girls in the fourth grade are wearing! I just have plain ol’ shoes.”
Luna and I exchanged smiles. “Vi, sweetie, we can’t get you new shoes just because some girls in a different grade are wearing them,” I said, tapping the table. “Eat your pancakes. We need to get ready for school and work.”
“But Daddy!” Viola whimpered. “The girls in my grade are wearin’ them too! Least, the cool ones are!”
“You’re so self-absurd,” Sebastian said, munching on his pancake from behind a book.
“That is ‘self-absorbed’ and she isn’t,” I said, reaching over and taking his book. “Don’t call your sister names. Now come on, eat up. It’s getting late.”
It was my turn to drive the kids to school. I gave Luna a goodbye peck on the lips and could see the worry in her eyes. Something was really preoccupying her thoughts. Whatever it was she had been going on about, most likely.
After dropping off the kids, I headed in to work, listening to the radio. My mind wasn’t entirely on the music, though. I kept seeing that look in her eyes. Why had she been asking about marriage and people leaving? Whatever it was, it really upset her, I thought with a sigh. Maybe I’ll look into it.
I got to my little office and logged onto my computer. I had some stuff I needed to do but I could put that off a bit. I checked my mail and then went to the database, typing in a search for ‘Ancora villagers who left’. I found a little report someone wrote on why a villager might choose to leave, but nothing else. Frowning, I kept searching, trying different perimeters, getting rather frustrated. I finally wound up at a list of deceased that went clear back to when Ancora and Acinert were founded.
I was about to close out when my phone buzzed. I quickly pulled it from my coat, noticing a text from Luna. I flipped my phone open to check it out. Suspicion confirmed, worse fears found; not letting her get away with it. Still want to move to the Valley?
I texted back, What are you talking about? What’s going on? What about SV? and then waited for her reply. It took a few minutes but finally I got back, Even worse than I thought. She’s a monster. Get out of here, just leave. No more of this mess.
This time I called her but she didn’t pick up. I left a voicemail and then sent her a text, and finally went to her office. I knocked several times but there was no answer so I opened the door. She wasn’t there, but her computer was still on. I went over to see what made her decide someone was a monster and I stared at the screen.
The woman in the old picture looked like Luna’s mother, only as a rainbow. I looked at the name underneath. Wisteria Collins. It had a date of birth which was ages ago, and a date of death. Was this a relative of her mother?
I minimized the screen and found myself looking at another rainbow, one I recognized. He lived in the village–or rather, did. Lloyd Chambers, it said under the picture. Date of birth, and date of death. Today. I stared at it, rather surprised–I didn’t remember seeing his name on the list when I looked at it just moments ago. The page with his picture on it said updated about two hours ago. I quickly left her office and returned to mine since I had left my computer up and it had the list of the deceased from Ancora. Lloyd’s name was not on it. Frowning deeply, I clicked ‘refresh’.
Chambers, Lloyd was at the top. Updated four minutes ago. That was not unusual, sometimes it took lists like this to be updated. When I got my latest promotion, it took almost the entire day before my name was listed under that specific job though my person page was updated pretty quickly. So… she must have been looking up Lloyd for some reason and not just the list of the deceased… why?
I ran both hands though my hair, trying to think of what this all meant. It obviously meant something to Luna, but I couldn’t figure it out. I closed the site and got up, making a rash decision. I’d go find out from the Chambers’ family what happened to Lloyd.
Lloyd had a small family, like most the families in Ancora. I talked to his grandfather who was known as the Old Man. When I asked him what happened to Lloyd, his eyes darkened and he glanced away from me for a second, then back towards me with his eyes still dark.
“Lloyd made his decision, even if it was the wrong one,” he said.
I scratched my head. What on earth did that mean? “I don’t think I understand what you mean,” I said. “You mean he made the decision to–to die?”
Old Man’s eyes got huge and he then looked fiercely angry. “Die?” he shouted. “What are you talking about? Why do you think he’s dead? He’s strong enough, he’ll make it in the real world.”
Real world. “I don’t understand!” I said. “What happened? What decision?”
“His decision to leave Ancora,” Old Man said, spreading his hands as if it were obvious. “He left yesterday. I don’t know why you’d think he passed on.”
I left the house, clutching my head and stumbling along the pathway. They thought Lloyd had just left, but Lloyd was dead. Did something happen to him between then and now? Lune suspected something… why would she suspect he was dead? No, I thought as I passed through the gates. This was just my imagination. I was making a mountain out of a molehill.
I jumped as my phone rang and I glanced at the ID. Luna! I quickly opened the phone, pulling it to my ear. “Lune?” I said but heard nothing but static. “Luna? Is–is that you? Where are you?”
“—off–” I heard through the crackling. “–till around–come and–” There was a burst of crackling and I had to pull the phone from my ear. The only place reception was this was was deep under Acinert. Why was she there? The only thing that was there were some empty rooms and… Dr. Dearg’s office…
“Lune?” I shouted, not sure if she could hear me. “Where are you?”
The crackling subsided and then I heard, “–worse than I imagined–llen–hear me?”
“I can barely hear you,” I replied, clutching the phone tightly as I went to my car. “Luna, you need to go to a different level if you want to talk, the reception is too bad down there. Luna? Lune?”
“–get me–” she said, at least I was pretty sure she said it. “–need to–eave at one–” There was another burst of static and then she said, almost clearly, “–think it’s some sort of–” Then more static and finally, “–experiment.”
Then the line went dead. I stuck my phone back in my pocket and headed back to Acinert. Luna wanted to leave, at least I assumed she did, and I wasn’t going to complain. I wasn’t as obsessed with this place as she was and I kinda wanted to move to Sunset Valley for a long time. Whatever was going on, if this was what was going to convince her to leave then fine by me.
I pulled into the parking lot and went into Acinert, checking Luna’s office first (empty) and then heading down to the lower levels. I heard some voices ahead and then realized one of them was Luna’s voice. And another one was Dr. Dearg. Luna yelled something and then I heard a door slam.
I stared at the dimly lit corridor, waiting for a moment. There was silence, and then footsteps. I backed up against the wall as Dr. Dearg came forward. She saw me and gave me a rather strange look.
“Why, Mr. Danevbie.” Her voice was slick with something that scared me. It sounded like the cat that got the canary. My heart pounded as I remembered the stories Luna had told me. Luna’s scream… had this woman done something?
“H-hello,” I stammered.
“Are you looking for someone?” she asked, tilting her head slightly. “It was just me down here. I was going to head up to visit my brother. Come. Walk with me.” She linked her arm with mine and before I could protest, we were halfway up the stairs.
“Um–no,” I said, wrenching away from her, nearly falling. “Have you seen Luna?”
Dearg looked down at my, her eyes glittering. “Luna Danevbie?” she asked. “Why… no. I haven’t. I believe she quit, though. Didn’t she tell you?”
My eyes widened at that. “She didn’t quit. I heard her, just a–” I stopped, realizing what she was saying. Was she really going to insist my wife wasn’t around? I started to seize up with panic. What the hell was going on?
“Just a what, Mr. Danevbie?” Dearg asked coolly.
I had the urge to get as far away from her as possible. “Nothing,” I mumbled. “N–never mind. I guess I was imagining things.”
“That’s right,” she said, stepping aside and indicating for me to go ahead. “It was just your imagination.”
I cautiously went past her, feeling the hairs on the back of my neck go up as I did. As soon as I got past her I picked up my speed a bit and quickly got to my office. I tried calling Luna, but it just went to voicemail. I paced around and then left my office, heading back down to the lower level. My heart was ready to explode and I hoped and prayed that Dearg was elsewhere.
I first tried her office, but it was locked. I checked the empty rooms and all of them were indeed empty except for one which was locked. I pressed my ear against it but heard nothing. If Luna was down here, she was either in Dearg’s office or this room. How to get in? I couldn’t just bust down the doors and there was no pass card for this.
“Think. Think, Kellen, think!” I began pacing again, tugging at my hair, feeling my nerves getting worse and worse. I didn’t know what was going on, but I had to find my wife. There must be a way in. There had to be something I could do! Call the cops? Oh, hardly. They wouldn’t believe me. Hi, my boss locked my wife up. Yeah. Real sane sounding.
I headed back up the stairs and into my office. What should I do? I decided to see if I could try to find the blueprints for that level, to try and work out what that locked room might be. But when I tried logging on, it wouldn’t work. My password was no longer valid.
I didn’t want to deal with this now so I pushed my chair back from the desk, staring at the wall. I should go find someone to help me. Professor Dearg, perhaps? Luna seemed to like him. I got up and headed to his office, but paused when I saw the door open a crack. Voices floated out. His voice almost pleading, and Doctor Dearg’s voice very cold.
I quickly backed up and ran to the stairs, leaning against the wall. Okay. So… not Professor Dearg. What now? What would someone in the movies or a book do? Jimmy the lock? Force my way through? I knew if the positions were reversed, Luna would do anything to get to me. I would do anything to get to her. Even this.
I headed back down, trying to decide what to do. The office? Or the room? My decision was made, when I saw that the hinges on the unknown room were facing out. I could easily remove those and get the door open.
Why am I doing this? I wondered as I started working. This is insane, this is wrong, this feeling I have is just… paranoia I caught from Lune. I frowned as I worked, my fears rising even more despite my trying to ignore them. What if it wasn’t paranoia? What if, for some strange reason, Dr. Dearg imprisoned Luna behind this door? To what purpose?
Guess I’ll find out, I thought as I got the other hinge removed. I carefully pulled the door back and when I set it against the wall and looked into the room, my eyes widened.
Luna was standing in the middle of the room, an arm around a young girl that recognized from Ancora. They both looked terrified and in fact, the young girl looked as though she had been crying. Luna gave a yelp of joy and ran over, wrapping her arms tightly around me and kissing me.
“Oh Kellen, thank Watcher!” she gasped. “We need to get out of here, we need to get to Ancora right away!”
“Lune!” I said, gripping her arms. “What the hell is going on? I thought I was being insane and paranoid breaking into this room but–why are you here?”
Her fingers dug into my arm. “Kellen, I’ll tell you everything just we need to get out now. We need to get the villagers out of Ancora. Jay’s done with the experiment.”
“What experiment?” I asked, reaching over for the girl. She fell against me, whimpering loudly.
“Ancora!” Luna exclaimed as we headed down the hall. “The whole reason the Reddings started up Acinert in the first place. It’s not just random research, Kellen. It’s all one big experiment. Utopia. It’s an experiment on Utopia.” Luna stopped, and stared in horror up at me. “And Jay said that she’s had enough. She’s going to destroy it.”