It’s not a glamorous job, but it’s pays the rent. And if that means I get to be free and allowed to be my own person then that can only be a good thing.
The mop squeaked along the floor and the beads of sweat on Rachel’s forehead dripped to the floor. She didn’t know what was more frustrating? The fact that she had moped and clean the most filthiest part of the high school or if the drops of sweat would mean she would have to work even longer in the worst part of the school. High school lockers. The pure stentch of the deodorant made her wretch.
However there were certain areas where she knew the kids came from well off families. Their bays smelled of the latest designer fragrance. Something she could only dream of. One day, Rachel would be able to escape this life and become the movie star she dreamed of. At least in this city, she had a fighting chance.
It was the grounds keeper George. A lovely elderly gentleman that looked after Rachel the moment she got here. He had once mumbled how she reminded him of his daughter who he hasn’t seen in 20 years and so would always pay her a little more attention over the other staff.
Today is your lucky day! You get the clean out duty.
Clean out duty is when a child has absconded for longer than 3 months and the parents, next of kin, no one can be identified or contacted to come collect their things. Because of the school’s reputation to produce some of the best and brightest minds, the waiting list and associated entrance exam meant there was always someone waiting in the wings to come fill in any gaps. Alternatively, those from well to do families, simply paid the hefty fee to get in and their children were treated all the more strictly, because by the time the teachers were done with them, these privilidged brats would know what kind of opportunity they are receiving. However, when it comes to clean out duty, whatever is left behind is available to the cleaners. Sometimes you get lucky and find something interesting and expensive – iPads, earrings, necklaces etc and other times you find nothing at all. Or nothing of note. Drugs were not tolerated in the school but Rachel would like to think that there were some students rebellious enough…. daring enough…. to fight the authority.
She sighed and went to the locker number that George gave her.
313, 313, 313
She kept muttering the number as she went down the bay and came across it.
In an instant she knew this was something special. Giddy with excitement, she punched in the override combination into the locker bay and it opened. And Rachel was puzzled at what she saw.
There was a big metal silver torch, a bag filled with some empty protein bars and half opened candy wrappers, a beanie, a heat blanket, rock climbing gloves, knee pads and various equipment that looked like it was meant for sneaking around. Further into the locker there was a map with dates and notes – completely unreadable scrawled all over. And then there were lines pointing to each person. Photographs of people. Some old, some new. This looked like it was going on for a long time. There was something else behind the bag and when Rachel went in for it, a book fell out from under the shelf. Clearly it wasn’t meant to be found. Rachel thumbed through it, there were different writings in there. But the style was all the same. It was almost like the same person was writing it but was perhaps in different mental states? Anxious, relaxed, excited? But they all looked the same.
The final entry opened.
“Dated: 7 July 2021”
Huh? It’s 2015.
“It seems like the invasion is imminent. And not a single person is aware. If I could only reach my Dad, he would be able to solve the answers for me. But I know I can’t because he’s running to protect me. Dad. I finally see. I’m coming. Mum is safe. I have placed her in a timeline where none of this will happen. For now. But if I work my way through, I should be able to get to you. And in time, we can be a family again.”
What an imagination.
Rachel flipped a few more back.
“My first memory”
“I don’t know how to say this and I don’t know if you believe me. But if you have found the book, you are looking for the answers too. This is my story and I need you to listen. Just listen.
I only ever knew my Dad for a few years. My Mum was never around. Dad mentioned that she went away to protect us both. But I don’t know who she was running away from. For a long time, my Dad told me I was special and that I would always have protectors around me when I needed it most. As a kid, I wanted to believe. Hell I tried my utmost, but there were times I didn’t.
Of course, that all changed the night I was about to throw my teddy bear out. Ted was a toy given to me by my Mum. Not a toy but rather a guardian. It’s ridiculous to think that I would stay awake so many nights telling him my deepest worries and fears. I told him all about my questions and if I anything when I hugged him as I went to sleep crying trying my hardest to remember my Mum, I could honestly say that it felt like he hugged me back. And to think I was going to throw him away. That night… that night I saw a thing come through my door in a haze of mist and smelly fog and Ted stood his ground and fought it… if I hadn’t open my mouth, Ted would have been alright, but I whispered his name. He was distracted and that thing stuck him. I got so enraged….so angry that I yelled. And this black pit opened behind him and it swallowed the monster whole.
Ted hugged me and promised me that he would be back. He needed to go after the thing to stop it once and for all. He knew… that by the time he made it back, I would not be alive and he gave me one last hug as he jumped through the portal.
And that’s when my Dad showed up.
The next day he told me everything.
Who I am, what i was doing here and my purpose. I couldn’t believe him. I was nearly 10 but that’s when everything started to change. And I needed to. Because of what’s coming.”
Now Rachel was intrigued. She closed the book and read the name. James Parker.
Parker. Parker… why does that name sound familiar.
Then she remembered about that incident. One night she was working late and was going across the school yard to her car. And from the edge she saw a bunch of no-hopers hanging around. They looked like some of the older kids hanging out. Or rather kids that had graduated but realised that they had already peaked. Hence why they come back to their old stomping ground. As she got closer to the car. They left the edge of the parking lot and was walking towards Rachel and her solitary car. Her heart raced as she quickened her pace.
They were at her car before she was.
Hey Miss. What are you doing out here?
It was Rob the worst of the lot. Hanging out with 4 of his other no hopers.
Rob. Go home, I can clearly smell the alchol on your breath and you know you shouldn’t be drinking on school property.
I dun go heere no more
His speech was slurred. Rachel was trying to reach for the mace she carried in her bag.
Well I don’t want trouble. Go home and I won’t breathe a word.
Not before you make sure I am clean too.
He licked his lips and massaged his crotch. The other boys snickered and circled her.
She pulled out the mace and aimed at him.
I’m WARNING YOU. LEAVE ME ALONE.
GET HER BOYS!
She heard the zip as the first burly boy fell and the baseball came to a stop at her feet. She whipped around to see who it was and but it was too dark in the shadows.
Then another ball came and landed smack in the second boy’s face and you could hear the sound of his nose breaking.
Then the third and fourth ball hit. One dislocated knee and the other collapsed backwards as the sternum cracked.
The shlick of the knife made Rachel turn around as Rob lunged towards her with a butterfly knife. She raised her arms to protect herself.
She heard a loud thud and massive crack. Rob had swung and cut her saviour in the face but he had landed a powerful blow to his stomach that he collapsed like a bag of potatoes.
OH MY GOD thank you thank you thank you.
Her saviour turned around, it was James Parker and his face was cut under the left eye.
You’re bleeding. Are you ok?! We need to get you to a hospital.
I’m fine. Are you ok? Why are you out here so late?
Don’t get angry at me. i work here.
I go to school here. And what would have happened if I wasn’t here?
Rachel collapsed to the ground.
You got to get up.
James reached down and picked her up under her arms. That smell. Sunflowers. Why did he smell like sunflowers. Rachel looked at him confused.
Where have you been?
Here in the lab the entire time.
Come on Rachel. You need to go home. I’ll clean this up.
It was George.
Are you ok?
She slipped the book behind her.
Yeah I’m fine.
As George walked away, she looked at the next line.
“Mum doesn’t know. But I will always protect her. I promised Dad. One day we will all be together. One day she will sweep us up and bring us together”