This story is a work of fiction. All names, characters, businesses, events, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Ellis was handed some supplies. The supplies consisted of a piece of cloth, a towel, a slate, and a piece of chalk. He was then taken to the boy’s sleeping room. In it, most of the boys were already sleeping. Ellis got one of the beds in the back. Across him was an empty bed.
He quickly changed and jumped into bed. It was surprisingly comfortable. It might be because of a long trip he just was on.
Either way, he couldn’t bring himself to comfort until the thunder outside either calmed down or stopped completely. Once the noises from the outside seemed to have calmed down, so did Ellis. He closed his heavy eyelids fully and slowly started to fall asleep.
The maniac scream was heard through the hallways. It caused Ellis to immediately sit back up on the bed. He looked towards the door with stressed teary eyes. Others in the room seemed unresponsive to the screams.
One of the boys from the nearby bed, caught a glance of fully awoken Ellis and told him, “Oh, are you a new guy?”
“Yes,” confirmed Ellis shortly, making sure his voice wouldn’t crack, “Do you also hear these screams?”
“Ah,” uttered the boy half-awake, he tiredly responded, “That’s just Maie. She will be done in about two minutes.”
Ellis was visibly baffled by such a relaxed response. He lift his head up and curiously asked, “What’s with her?”
“She has nightmares,” answered the boy, before turning his back to Ellis and murmuring, “Go back to sleep.”
The screams indeed stopped after two minutes. Ellis’ muscles started to relax again. He lay back down and started to drift off to sleep.
In the early morning, Ellis had a quick breakfast. It consisted of nothing else but bread, gruel, and broth. He couldn’t complain. It was better than starving on the streets.
The rest of the children didn’t seem to complain either. They were too focused on their meals. The chatter of absent prayer in the morning was also the talk of the dining room. It was concluded that their main caretaker had some business to attend to in the morning.
“We must be cursed,” whispered out a girl next to Ellis.
Ellis turned to her and wondered, “Is something wrong?”
The girl turned to him with large fully open eyes. She seemed as if she didn’t bat an eye the whole previous night.
“There is always a prayer present in the morning… the caretaker abandoned us for today…” she leaned towards him and whispered out, “It’s almost as if we’re all cursed…”
Having nothing to add to the girl’s words, Ellis simply looked her in the eyes and said, “May your words be blessed.”
On the other side, Ellis saw one boy taking some pills. The boy seemed tired and sickly. Ellis quickly noticed how his peer was left-handed.
“What are you taking?” asked Ellis.
“These pills make my pain bearable,” responded the boy with a shattered voice.
Immediately, Ellis thought to himself how those must be painkillers.
“I’m Ellis,” said Ellis, trying to seem somewhat friendly.
“Danail,” whispered back the sickly boy while standing up.
Ellis took an interest in that boy, but he kept it all to himself. He felt a gentle hand on his shoulder. Turning back, he saw the same girl from a while ago.
“Ellis,” she said softly, “My name is Maie… nice to meet you.”
There was a presence of stillness between them. Maie blinked a couple of times. Her lips were full and her head seemed heart-shaped. The golden-brown hair was sort of messy, but it somewhat suited her. Her pale skin amplified the tiredness visible in her eyes. She wore a simple-looking light-blue dress with distinct flower-shaped designs on her sleeves.
She wondered, “Is that what people say when they first meet? I practiced so much, this must be it. Please tell me!”
Ellis stood up and Maie’s hand fell from his shoulder. He looked deeply into her eyes and simply said, “You did everything correctly,” his tone darkened as he added in, “I’m just not the right person to talk to.”
Leaving her alone, Ellis had to walk up to the counter outside of the canteen and get a list of chores to do for the day. Every child in this building was doing the same and they were doing their duties in the right order and responsibly.
He was a bit surprised to see only four things listed. He had to wash dishes, mop up the floor, and clean windows. In the last Orphanage, the list of chores was almost never-ending, so this was refreshing.
The laughter of children was heard through the hallways as he was going along with his work. It was either laughter or yelling, Ellis couldn’t make out the difference.
Ellis took one of the books from the shelf. Going to the small courtyard he opened the book and started reading it in the poor sunlight.
He heard a group of kids, around his age, playing football with a torn barely round ball.
As Ellis started to immerse himself in the book, a ball hit him across the head. The laughter of the boys echoed through the playground. Ellis’ face made a small smile. He picked up the thrown ball and approached the group of laughing children.
“Who threw it?” asked Ellis, displaying a playful smile.
“It was me!” said Danail, no doubt, raising his hand. There were some bruises and scratches on it.
Satisfied with an answer, Ellis showed him the ball and said, “Catch this!”
Ellis threw the ball at Danail’s body and Danail instinctively caught it with both of his hands. With his hands occupied, Ellis stepped forward and punched Danail in the face.
The fight broke out between them in a matter of seconds. Ellis was the one who ended up on top of Danail giving the most punches. Danail was also hitting back, but his punches weren’t as impactful.
Once two teeth got knocked out of Danail’s mouth, Ellis stopped his doings. He stood up from the ground and watched as Danail started coughing out blood from his mouth.
The others around them didn’t have much to say. They were mostly giving Ellis a stern look. Ellis didn’t seem to mind. He instead wished to leave but froze in place upon hearing Danail’s laughter.
“Ellis! You bitch!” said Danail, his words soundly sloppy.
Ellis stared back, not saying a word.
Standing up, Danail collected his teeth and announced, “You will pay for this!”
“Those were just milk teeth,” pointed out Ellis calmly, “It will make you grow up faster.”
“Fight someone your own size, you bully!” yelled someone from the crowd. It was clearly directed towards Ellis.
Hearing such words, Ellis turned his back because he was trying to hide the wicked smile that had appeared on his face. He expected to hear something like it, but not only after barely a day in here.
The Secret Room
He kept on talking and returned to his book and left others behind. Deciding to walk around the building, Ellis could feel someone watching him out of the corner of his eyes.
The unknown figure approached him. He was faced with an unfamiliar boy. Visibly they were around the same age.
“Ellis?” whispered the boy.
“Yes? Who are you?”
“My name is Jericho,” said the boy, “Maie told me about you. She told me… and I heard you telling your name, yourself. Even the walls have ears in this house.”
“Jericho…” said Ellis, trying to be as polite as possible, “What do you want from me?”
“Did you know that our caretaker… Mr Stewart always carries around an envelope in his breast pocket?”
“No?” assumed Ellis with big confusion written all over his face. He looked around for a moment, searching for some sort of escape, but he had to wonder, “Why are you telling me this?”
“It’s just a rumour! Besides, I’ve heard you two talk last night in his office!”
“How did you hear us?”
“Well, I need to tell you something, Ellis… A secret.”
“Do you know how to keep a secret?”
Jericho suddenly started walking quickly, away from Ellis. Ellis followed behind, more curious than anything else. He was deeply confused by the boy’s words.
While following Jericho, Ellis tried to ask, “Why do you want to-“
Jericho quickly turned back and harshly whispered, “Don’t speak of it! Didn’t you hear me speaking? The walls have ears! I just told you!”
“Alright,” agreed Ellis, he was a bit surprised by a paranoid reaction.
Jericho led Ellis to the shower room. The one that was across the boy’s sleeping room.
Behind the showers, there was a huge metal plate. The metal plate was at the height of the walls, so it was easy to miss. Even so, Jericho pulled it with a bit of struggle. Behind it was a hole. Hole built upon the wood. Jericho led Ellis in.
“What is on the other side?”
Ellis was intently staring at another boy, but he still wasn’t given any further explanations. He entered it with a bit of hesitation. He stepped on the stairs, which led him to the upper attic. It looked like an attic at least. He could hear Jericho moving the metal plate back to its place.
Looking around, Ellis saw how cluttered and tiny the room seemed. There were a couple of windows by the side letting some light in. Other than that, there were four bookshelves, but there weren’t any books on them. There were glass jars filled with all kinds of nonsense. One jar had bread in it that had already started to decay. Others had certain liquids Ellis was unfamiliar with. Along with jars, there were some presumably empty bottles. Everything seemed stacked together as if a hamster hoarded it.
Ellis went speechless for a moment. He had no idea what to say. Meeting Jericho’s wide smile, Ellis noticed how Jericho’s eyes weren’t smiling, only his mouth. Not only that, Jericho held something behind his back. Before Ellis could ask any questions, Jericho pulled his hands up front revealing a huge rat in his hands.
“Look!” whispered Jericho, “His name is Ralf. Isn’t he the most gorgeous creature in the world?”
Ellis didn’t say anything but only managed to relax his face. He quickly realized Jericho didn’t expect an answer. Jericho started playing and hugging his pet rat.
“Why did you take me here?” asked Ellis while looking at the room once again.
“Well…” said Jericho at first, “You seem like someone who can keep a secret. Can you keep this one as well?”
Ellis looked at Jericho’s warm tired eyes. A strange echoing melody started to play in Ellis’ mind. He blinked a couple of times, a strange feeling consumed his lungs. As if there was a parasite stuck in him.
Managing to pull out a smile, he said, “Of course, I will keep this secret for you.”
“Thank you, Ellis!” said Jericho while putting his pet rat on the side, “Feel free to use this space whenever you want. You’re always welcome here.”
Exiting this room truly did feel like returning to the real world. Jericho’s place must be something else. Ellis wondered what would have happened if he had said “no” to Jericho. He decided not to question it because of the unbearable headache that appeared in Ellis.
To be continued…
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