The Callie Series: Chapter 1
They called her Callie, but that wasn't her name.
They called her Callie, but that wasn't her name.
She didn't know what her real name was. No one knew what their real names were. No one here knew anything about anyone before the so-called Burst.
But Callie was different. Her memories started almost a year after the Burst. And as word spread about that it was adding to her already unduly list of problems.
"The Burst was the beginning. There was a flash, a bang, and we all came to." Hecky described the awakening that followed the Burst to Callie as they strolled up the Main Street sidewalk.
"It was as if everyone had been born as the ages they woke up in. Some old, some young, and all scattered around town." Hecky's eyes bulged out of their sockets as if she was witnessing it again in that moment.
"Some woke in homes. The home ones were lucky. They mostly decided that they were likely of the same family, so they play their parts as mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters. Others woke in the streets and shops. Like me." Her eyes went from crystal balls to glassy marbles.
Callie had seen it for herself since she'd been in town. The Unclaimed people had started a war. They formed alliances and usurped houses that were claimed by proclaimed families. They were staking claim to every building because there were no records to prove otherwise. The record keepers weren't recording the new claims to ownership fast enough and people were being strong-armed onto the streets.
Willow trees loomed over the sidewalk as they continued their stroll. Hecky continued her description of the Burst.
"Nothing was no-one's, so everything was for the taking. Swendle from the Grey Torn clan asked me to join them a few months back. I was minding my own business, siphoning water from a backyard sweet tree when he and those grey coats popped up behind me. But I'm no Clanner. I was Burst alone, so I'll stay alone. You and me, Callie. We don't need any of 'em."
Callie silently listened to Hecky's recalling of the Burst. Her awakening had been different. There was no home or bread shop for miles. No flash or bang.
The first thing Callie saw when she woke was a clearing in the middle of a forest. Trees were toppled for yards around her as if something had flattened the area outward in an enormous circle. For two days she trudged through the brush and trees, finally finding her way to a faint trail. She followed the path for another day, traversing the torn down terrain of what looked like it might have been inhabited decades before. She passed abandoned buildings that seemed to have been destroyed by years of elemental abuse.
There wasn't much to eat along the way. She'd found some berries. She even tried the grass as she had an urge to eat something green-colored. She drank whatever liquid was seeping out of the holes in the trees. It was sweet.
Three days had passed without seeing another living creature.
As the third day was turning to night, she saw the town. It was walled off, with a large wooden gate that stood almost ten feet tall and was guarded by someone that stood not much less than that.
She was greeted with not much of a greeting by the hulk of a guard who called himself Noodle. He was holding what looked like a golden staff from afar but as she walked up to the gate it became clear that it was a broom handle fashioned with the bones of what was likely a small mammal. A chicken , perhaps.
“Who are you and where did you come from? Noodle needs to know.” Noodle asked as she approached the gate.
She desperately needed some food and some answers, so she surveyed the area to determine the best response that would allow her to pass through without cause for attention. There was a small table with an empty vase beside a ragged armchair and hanging from the gate was some kind of speaker attached to a wire.
An old gramophone?
Not much to work with.
“I’m… uh..." she stopped, and turned her head to left, furrowing her brow. She couldn't answer Noodles' first question. It hadn't dawned on her that she couldn't recall what her name was. She re-focused and continued. She'd have to deal with that issue once she was inside, warm, and had a chance to think.
"I a traveler.” she said. “I came across your town and am looking for a nice chair to rest in, some food, and to maybe take in some of your town’s music. Then I’ll be on my way.”
He looked her up and down with a distorted half grimace, half confused face. “I’m going to call Top Hat. I’m under strict orders to report in any strangers.” Without taking his eyes off of her, he took three steps back to the gate and started yelling like a deranged mad-man into the gramophone. “Top Hat! Top Haaaaat! There’s someone you need to see at the gate! She’s NEW! She ain't from here...” His words trailed ominously.
Placing the speaker down and with his eyes still locked on her he asked “You got a name yet?”
Did he mean to say yet?
Before she could answer he was rambling off options. “I get to pick it!" he sang. "I’m going to call you... call you... Calloo! Hmm that doesn’t sound right. Call... Call-eeee. I’ve got it! Callie! You’re going to be called Callie. That's your name. That's what we'll call you.”
Her mind was reeling.
She'd barely registered that this ineloquent giant was forming phonetic names for her as if she was his newborn child.
Instead, all she could think about was why she knew what a gramophone was but not her own name.
She didn't have long to contemplate though.
The gate creaked open, and Top Hat stepped through.