Pandora’s Box - Gift
Chapter Two - Deadly...Looks that kill
A young woman begins packing her things into a DIY-designed canvas style backpack, military green. This unique bag houses several compartments with four fairly large exterior pockets. Each one was branded with her favourite Rock band. She stitched the embroidered patches herself which provided part of its appeal.
Those band logos were sectioned off equally specifically designated for her everyday use items and she was meticulous when loading up those supplies. Her pen and pencil stocks rested in the Motley Crue pouch. The calculator was placed into the ACDC spot and she snuggly fit an iPhone into the Led Zeppelin pocket. The last was oddly different from the bunch, her wallet would fill the Matchbox Twenty slot. Giving them a once-over and closing each pocket tightly.
On the desk lay six books that she had collected from the shelves of the library for a composition piece. She pulled them near while muttering the titles to herself one at a time like she was conjuring a spell or a bizarre witch’s potion,...” Quantum Leaps and Bounds, Portals in Realtime, Unlocking the Brain, Splitting Particles, Astrophysics, and lastly, The Secrets of the Atom,” she then concluded, “there that’s all of them,” she said.
Stacking them into a neat pile, she slid the bunch across the surface towards the lip of the desk and scooped them all into her left arm. She continued to press them tightly against her chest ensuring their safety, cradling with a firm but gentle grip, as though she were holding a newborn.
“Ah, shit,” she grumbled, peering past the bundle of literature in her arms realizing the slight yet manageable error. Looking down at the seat she saw she still needed to gather her belongings. With her free hand, she quickly snapped at the nylon strap, lifting it straight up over her head, then punched through the loop with a street fighter type finishing move; an uppercut to the chin until it caught her shoulder.
The librarian, Mrs. Thomas sat back in her chair watching the young student carefully, the girl struggled a few times, even staggered once, but she remained on course keeping the stack steady within her grasp. Finally arriving at returns near the main desk, the young woman projected a joker’s smile accompanied with a sigh of relief. She felt quite accomplished by landing the books onto the table without mishap.
Mrs. Thomas examined the titles, then asked warily, “Alexis, what type of mischief have you been up to this evening?” Alexis happened to gander over Mrs. Thomas’s shoulder and noticed that she had already entered her student profile when she responded with enthused excitement... “Oh..., it’s just a little theory I’m looking to develop.” Puzzled still, she crossed over the books through half-mooned spectacles that hung off her thin nose and asked distressingly, “What in God’s green earth, are you working on?”
Alexis gulped a breath and added to her previous statement, “If I can prove, just part of my theory, I believe my paper would be a complete success.” Mrs. Thomas pondered on her answer and the glowing grin on Alexis’s face, “okay…well good luck to you then,” skepticism in her tone.
Even though she sensed the skepticism, Alexis replied heartily “Why..., thank you Mrs. Thomas!” she spun herself around with a playful pirouette and nearly hit the librarian in the face with her backpack. Alexis gave Mrs. Thomas a quick wink before skipping to a walk through the turnstile and down into the lower bowl, making a course towards the exit. She began visually gathering the architectural interior, admiring how the library’s main entrance resembled that of an enormous opera house and thinking the university spared no expense. The assembly of bookshelves converged into the centre, row upon row, like the fletchings of an arrow, lined with a multitude of categories.
Pushing her way through the great set of mosaic doors, she split the threshold and left the building only to be greeted instantly by a slap in the face with frigid air. Like ice water, it swept across her delicate smooth olive skin, changing its complexion. “Burr”... she groaned disapprovingly, “It’s got colder”... she muttered while adjusting the lapel on her overcoat covering her bare neck from the bitterness.
Twisting her knapsack in front, Alexis pulled a tiny white cube-like object that housed a pair of Apple earbuds and her iPhone, she wanted to listen to some tunes for her trek back. Strumming through her music library, she scrolled to find her usual go-to playlist. In that fraction of a second between her tapping shuffle, we hear the twang on a set of guitar strings. A bottle slides over its’ long neck, plucking their way into her ears, its soon joined and tied together with the pulse of ivory keys from a grand piano before the crash of cymbals and the rumbling of a snare drum.
We hear Rob Thomas’ voice soon swoon to the beat “Someday they’ll find your small-town world, on a big-time avenue, gonna make you like, the way they talk, when they’re talking to you” were the first lyrics to the song by Matchbox Twenty; Hand me down. Hanging the strap back onto her shoulder, she placed the phone into her back pocket making her way down the overly exaggerated marble steps. They lay like those ancient Greek temples or similar to those seen gracing the United States Supreme Court.
During her descent, she recalled the thoughts of the day. They lingered on her mind, playing out, like scenes of a flashback to a movie. Over and over, she could hear those ignorant masses from school, ridiculing her ideas and mocking her setups.
They not only dismissed her processes, but they also said that there would be no way she would ever prove the research. Her classmates went as far as criticizing her elaborate methods, teasing that her so-called evidence was nothing but cheap parlour tricks. Her professors also explained that her findings lacked any support or validity, but Alexis knew otherwise.
She grew restless, and tired, feeling tormented by those naysayers. “If it's proof they want, then it's proof I’ll provide,” determined in her whispers, she just needed to demonstrate it without exposing the truth. Onward along, she strolled taking the quickest route to her dorm, “The Sarah Elizabeth Henderson Boulevard,” the lane students used as the shortest path to getting across campus the fastest.
The dreadful visons reappeared troubling her mind. Thinking again of the methods while asking herself, “how do I prove them, damn it?”... And in crept another pulse, rising like the rebirth of a phoenix, simmering, waiting, like hungry embers ever since she was nine years old. That age-old question and the burden of proof were the answers to her current conundrum, but at what cost. It was in these times the whispers frightened her especially when asking ...“what am I?”
The sudden rustling from the bushes broke her critical and jumbled thoughts. Swiftly she turned to place the noise to see what culprit created this essential distraction. She found a curiously welcoming pair of eyes, the tiniest glowing orbs staring up at her, innocently belonging to a baby raccoon. “Awe,” she cooed delightfully ... “are you lost, little guy?” She could see that the cub was sniffing the air for a scent, its whiskers reflecting the light, like little strands of fiber optics, and the scared critter scurried across the dim-lit path and out of sight.
She chuckled and proceeded onward towards her dorm when she abruptly stopped to hold the visual moment; The scene from atop a cascading stairwell, overlooking an eighty-foot-long drop. Alexis silently took in the perspective before thinking how it oddly felt comparable to the stairs from the scene in “The Exorcist”, the one where Father Karras gets launched from Regan's window, before tumbling down to his excruciating death.
Unphased by that gruesome piece of cinema etched in her memory, she shrugged it off and took her first step, steering her right back to her current dilemma. She continued contemplating how to transfer her ideas by any means necessary to fulfill her desired outcome. An outcome that won’t expose what she truly knows to be true. When she let slip from her lips, “I need to find a way to get my foot in the door, for a chance at a worthy federal grant or better, maybe even a Pulitzer prize.”
Arriving at the first landing, she paused to pull out her iPhone again, this time she wanted to listen to something a bit louder, loud enough to drown out those negative voices in her head. Scanning through the various playlists in her music library, she came upon the thundering sound she needed to hear and quickly pressed play.
The energy that rushed out came from Nikki Sixx’s bass guitar, explosively escorted more rampantly with the kick of Tommy Lee’s drums by the well-known Los Angeles metal band, Motley Crue, with their song Looks that kill. The pounding of their instruments felt like the thumping from a sledgehammer splitting through concrete, pulsing life into her veins.
As the music pounded in her eardrums, something caught her attention at the base of the stairs. Two husky shadows emerged from out of the dark. Thinking nothing of the occurrence, she looked at her phone briefly, before placing it back into the pocket. That’s when she detected two other figures magically turning up in almost simultaneous fashion at the top of the steps.
At first glance, she thought that logically many students use this path daily to get from one end of campus to the other, but it was the timing she found quite nerving. She reconsidered the probability for a split second, then remembered that after 8 p.m. this pathway was restricted to female students, a well-known declaration since the tragic death of one Sarah Elizabeth Henderson, to whom the boulevard was named.
The story goes that she was heading back to her dorm after a sorority party. Unfortunately, she didn’t make it, she was viciously raped and murdered, leaving the university to enforce a ban to all males, students, faculty, or otherwise. This stigma had been attached to the school, placing it under fire for having piss poor security!
It became a black mark in its forty-year history and sadly it had been the ending to a once brilliant future for Sarah. Alexis had also recognized that a couple of lights had been plucked out near a set of surveillance cameras, placed precisely to monitor student activity within the grounds.
“Somethings off” she whispered, her instinct became alerted. Taking the next set of steps down towards the next landing. She experienced a weird sensation a feeling that each one of her steps was equally matched by theirs. Once she arrived standing on the second landing these four figures dressed in black suits ascended upon her position.
The male to her immediate left, presented his FBI badge and spoke with an authoritative stern voice, “Mrs. Armitage, I’m agent Marks, this is agent Jordan, agent Hanson and agent Glass,” each displaying their badges. He lunged to grab her left arm, continuing to say, “you’ll need to come with us”.
Amid his introductive statement, agent Glass had snuck closer to Alexis and cautiously grabbed her right wrist from behind. The other two men stood witness, preparing themselves as backup, should the situation escalate. Alexis took a look around, carefully observing the surrounding area for others, her expression wasn’t of worry or fear, nor was she frantic to search for somebody who’d be able to help.
It seemed that every one of her reactions was deliberate, she immersed herself back into this present state, refocusing her energy onto her assailants.
Calmly raising her shoulders, she stood tall, took a deep breath, and firmly said ... “I’m afraid, gentlemen, you’re sadly mistaken, I’m not going anywhere with you!”... suddenly, the man to her right without hesitation drew his weapon swiftly, like his arms had other plans, horror shot off his face, while attempting to stop himself.
Using every ounce of strength in his muscles to pull the pistol back, his body began to shake uncontrollably. Pearl-shaped droplets of sweat emerged from his hairline as the gun continued to shift erratically, pointing in the direction of his colleague.
“TOM!”... “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”... grumbled agent Jordan under gnashed teeth, as shock and unease riddled over his own eyes. “Yes Tom”... ridiculed Alexis ...“what are you doing?” she gestured while mocking the gentlemen!
Agent Hanson continued to struggle, fighting to maintain control of his weapon, but he would lose the battle, when the gun stopped, merely inches from his partner's head, at dead bang. During Toms tussle to dominate the handling of his revolver, the commotion was the right kind of distraction for his fourth colleague Jon, the gentlemen standing beyond Alexis’s left shoulder.
He had also drawn his nine-millimeter pistol in the same fluid motion as Tom and now, it had rested pointed directly at the head of agent Marks, their superior and team lead.
“John!” ... he growled, staring down the trembling barrel of his associates’ gun, then demanded!...“what in God’s name is wrong with you two guys?”...
Blinded by the red in his own eyes, agent Marks snarled through his prominently flared nostrils and like a fierce bull attacked, “Put your weapons, away”... he hesitated momentarily then yelled ...“This was supposed to be a routine operation,”... his voice grew gradually hoarser and angrier “NO GUNS!”, “NO VIOLENCE!”, “JUST APPREHEND THE SUSPECT!”, “A CLEAN SWEEP, “YOU TWO GOT THAT!”
Alexis burst like a balloon, popping in response like someone had poked her with a pin, ... “I’m not sure they comprehend what you’re saying!” ...
“Shut your mouth,”... he roared back, pulling Alexis’s arm closer trying to hook her wrist into the handcuffs.
In that instant, agents (Tom) Jordan and (Jon) Hanson had both reached across their colleagues, exactly synchronized, mimicking one another’s movements, as though they stood before their reflection in a mirror, then with an equal amount of force, struck agents Marks and Glass in the face with their elbows...breaking their nose!
Agents Marks and Glass gathered their senses, pulled themselves off the ground, both covered in blood, and both quite frustrated with their friends. When without warning they simultaneously kicked out their weapons in what almost seemed retaliatory, but it was more than that, deadly more.
They could hardly contain their actions, as their bodies were overcome, like marionette puppets manipulated to perform under extreme pressure. The intensity mounted to a fever pitch, each agent slowly realized that this situation was no longer in their control.
All four watched in horror, each staring down their hollow barrel to a loaded gun, wondering what else in the world could go wrong. When a subtle breeze began to briskly pass between the men and Alexis. It grew more fiercely, blowing like a giant theatrical fan, a gusting wind swirling around them. It collected all sorts of leaves and other debris on the platform.
Scattering about, they soon burst into a mini spiralling twister, fluttering like a moth dancing towards the hypnotic flame. It gathered speed and drifted more aggressively, whirling just as quickly as Nascar drivers during the Indy 500.
When the ground began to tremble, shaking them all off-balance. The thick concrete slab beneath Alexis’s feet snapped, cracking apart in the conductive shape of a lightning bolt streaking across the sky.
A thin red molten sliver of light boiled at the rim, it began to spread, opening further and wider, as the vortex carried them all up into the air. They hovered above the newly formed gaping hole; a separation large enough to suck them into the mysterious abyss below!
And in a brilliant wash of light, Alexis was pulled in, plunging through the threshold, and disappeared out of sight. The agents manically wailed in shock and dismay, spitting screams of dread. When surprisingly another crashing sound of thunder split the ground opened, near the base of the stairs. A beam of bright light soon followed and Alexis mystically reappeared, floating for a moment in the rush of air, as the earth closed in on itself below her, gently touching down and standing firmly on solid ground!
She turned to glance up at the men still pointing their weapons at one another and struggling to contain their situation. Agent Marks caught Alexis’s stare in his peripheral, as beads of sweat rolled over his brow, pouring like a stream of water escaping through a crack in a flowerpot. He peered down at her, gazing momentarily, almost as if he was pleading for mercy.
When an explosive bang, shot out into the bitter night sky. All four men had relieved their revolver of a single bullet into one another’s skull and in a clump of flesh, they dropped like stones through the hole Alexis conveniently left behind, vanishing into the unknown. The cavity sealed shut as quickly as it appeared, leaving no trace of the event!
“Clean Sweep” ... whispered Alexis, continuing her journey home.