To Feel, A Modern Tale (04.24.11)

CHAPTER ONE <Click here for all of CHAPTER ONE.>

CHAPTER TWO <Click here for all of CHAPTER TWO.>

CHAPTER THREE <Click here for all of CHAPTER THREE.>

CHAPTER FOUR <Click here for all of CHAPTER FOUR.>

CHAPTER FIVE <Click here for all of CHAPTER FIVE.>

CHAPTER SIX

“Chloe!”

The young girl awoke with a start as her group leader Niman shouted her name. She had dreamt about it again, that place she knew yet had never traveled to. This was a common occurrence. She had found herself often dozing off during lessons as she grew bored. Bored with the same routines– same lectures in classes, same discussions, same projects assigned. Let us just get going so we can see it for ourselves, she thought to herself.

Ecker nudged his friend. “You fell asleep again, and she is not happy with you one bit,” he whispered with a scolding in his tone. “She’s not going to let you come with all of us to CarthMoore if you keep being disrespectful.”

Chloe looked at him with disgust and rolled her eyes. But she knew he was right. And all she had ever wanted to do since she could remember was go on an OTE. An Outlying Travel Exploratory, her teachers called it. She didn’t know what it was exactly but she knew they would finally get to witness the people, the places and the events they had heard so much about. At only eight years old, this would be Chloe’s first one ever. Ecker had been on only one other OTE before when he was younger than Chloe, but told his friend that he could not recall any of his earlier experience.

Niman moved to the front of the classroom and picked up her pointer, touching the image on the wall beside her. As the pointer tapped each part of the map, the image of the region expanded and the contents of that region popped out and hovered over the wall in surrounding holograms. “We will be investigating each of these locations in our search for witnessing the phenomenon in person,” she said facing the wall images and occasionally peering over her shoulder to glance at the students. “Are there any questions?” A few hands went up in the group. Niman pointed to one young boy near the front. “How long will we be there?” he asked.

“We expect to be there for one full day but that could be extended if we are successful in our expedition,” she said to the boy while she pulled out a few tablets from the bookcase behind her. “Each of you will take a tablet with you to record anything of interest that you find. And of course, you will be expected not to talk to anyone while you’re there unless it’s absolutely necessary.”

Great, Chloe thought. How can we be expected to learn anything at all unless we can talk to people. After all, we had spent all of these years working on our communications, only to stay silent on the off chance we can enter into a real conversation? It just didn’t make sense to Chloe.

“Any more questions?” Niman asked but turned away from the classroom, not noticing a few hands still raised. She gathered her belongings and leather satchel. “Okay, then, you may go back to your centers now.” And with that, she turned away from the students and exited the classroom.

Ecker turned to his friend with a smile stretched across his face. “I can’t wait to go,” he said as he picked up his tablet and shoved it into his backpack. “We’re finally going to see it for ourselves!” He piled the backpack over his shoulder and began to walk toward the door.

Chloe watched him walk away, completely swept up in his own enthusiasm. She too couldn’t wait to go on this journey that she had hoped for all these years. But she also felt a little afraid, for she knew that if this place she had yearned to visit all this time offered her the kind of life she had always dreamed about, that she could find herself doing the unthinkable. What if she chose to stay behind, she wondered to herself. It would mean leaving the only world she had ever known and her best friend Ecker. She couldn’t bear to think about it but knew that she would sacrifice anything if it meant the experience of knowing a family for the first time in her short, empty life.

Chloe picked up her tablet and backpack, and raced out of the door to catch up with her friend. “Ecker! Wait for me,” she shouted through the busy hallway. It was mid-day break, and the students had been attending their studies for the past five hours. She hoped to join her friend for lunch so they could talk about the trip tomorrow. But there he was already, at the end of the hallway, talking with the other older kids. Chloe stopped in her tracks and gazed over at him. He glanced over and smiled, then turned back to the other students to continue talking. She was left behind again.

This wasn’t the first time it had happened. Few understood their friendship, she not even ten yet and Ecker, recently becoming a teen, yet they truly understood each other. Was this what having a brother was like, she wondered. She had heard about such family relationships, but as one accustomed to life without such elements as parents, grandparents and siblings, she had only come to know one so-called relationship: friendship. And for Chloe who had always felt alone for so long, Ecker had truly become her best friend. Now he stood there across the room, completely oblivious to his friend’s excitement and need to talk about tomorrow’s big journey. She turned away from where she watched him and headed back to the resource center. She had gotten used to skipping lunch to work on her studies.

 When she entered the resource center, she was struck by how unusually quiet it seemed. Many of the students were going on OTEs tomorrow, besides her own class, to various towns and villages to observe and interact with others. Maybe they’re going home to get ready for their trip, she thought. She wondered if she should begin planning for travel, too. Ecker had been so young the last time he visited and could not remember all that it involved in preparation, so he could not offer much guidance. Her group leader had instructed the group that if anyone asked them about their reasons for being there to say it was a school field trip and make up some reference to their parents back home, parents that she of course had never known. It all seemed so complicated, she thought to herself, but she would do whatever it takes to finally get the chance to meet these others she had heard so much about. She laid down her books and tablet on a study table and typed into her navigator the search topic of OTEs, hoping to find a resource that might offer suggestions for what to bring.

An article titled “Planning for Your OTE” ranked at the top of the search listing, and she clicked on the link for more information. Its author Jeremy Fowler had written many e-books about the various journeys during his youth but his most notable spoke of an adventure he too had taken to a small, tucked away village called CarthMoore, the same village that Chloe and her group would be visiting tomorrow. It was here that she first learned about Jeremy’s discovery of Element N.

According to Fowler, Element N had been labeled an unidentified phenomenon but he had experienced it firsthand when left behind on one such OTE. He described it as an all-encompassing, emotionally-charged magnetic pull that prevented him from wanting to return home for nearly seven years, during which time he studied the phenomenon, the people and their surroundings, leading to his groundbreaking work, Rediscovering Home. Though she was only nine, she had read the book nearly three times already, and was excited to see the OTE planning article was written by the author.

“I knew you would be here,” a familiar voice whispered behind her. It was him. It was Ecker. He had come back to talk with his friend. She smiled at him and showed him the link to the story and he too keyed the information into his navigator.

She turned to Ecker, still speaking in a hushed voice in the quiet, nearly empty center. “Ecker, what if we go and like it so much that we want to stay?” her eyes welled up a little now as she looked seriously at her friend. “What if it feels like home?”

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