Day 227 of 365 Days of Writing Prompts: Give your character a chance to be young again.
Shannon: “So what are you saying, it’s like some kind of summer camp for adults?” I shrugged a shoulder.
“Basically, but instead the summer is all about team bonding. That’s all you guys have to worry about, just have fun and get to know each other again. None of you are allowed to quit until you finish this program. It’s in your contracts,” our manager Kim, explained, revealing more information about our real destination.
“It’s not going to work,” Elise shook her head and stared out the window, “Why do we have to drag this out?”
I pressed my lips to the side for a second, not knowing myself if this could solve anything, but then we pulled up to a sign and I heard the shock in the other three before I felt it myself.
“Camp Borrelli,” Jade whispered under her breath. It was the same camp where we had first met as kids.
“So will you give it a chance,” Kim smirked, already knowing eveyone’s answer.
Erin: Waking up in tiny bed under the roof of parents is an unsettling feeling. Not just because when I went to bed I was thirty and woke up thirteen, but because it seems wrong. Waking up to my mom slaving over the stove to make me pancakes was wrong. Saturday morning cartoons instead of the news was wrong. No alarm was wrong. Being taken care of instead of taking care of everything was wrong.
Or was it? Maybe this magical week or, day, or whatever it was could be a blessing in disguise. I decided I would cherish it.
Give your character more youth.
Light buzzing surrounded me, occasionally punctuated by louder noises similar to a cell vibrating on an aluminum table and lulls where I couldn’t hear anything at all. I became aware of an acute sensation of numbness in my toes, which seemed to be an entire world away from my mind; there were also some strange thoughts of fingers being squished and a frigid breeze near one of my knees. Though I couldn’t figure out if I was asleep or awake, partly due to the cold blankness of my vision, I was determined to make the bees cease their incessant buzzing before my head exploded.
Attempting to open my eyes or wiggle my fingers or move any independent part of my body, I managed to first twitch one finger somewhere. Clearly the buzzing was directly related to my being completely unconscious and stationary, because as soon as I moved the bees buzzed off and was replaced with a blessed silence I hated to leave. After a few peaceful minutes, during which I felt some minor poking and prodding of my phantom appendages, the buzzing returned with a vengeance and gave me renewed reason to grasp full wakefulness with both hands. It took a further few minutes of reaching out into the blinding void of nothingness before I was able to replicate the finger movement, which didn’t slow the buzzing this second time. I thought about crumpling a piece of paper in my fingers and willed my hand into a fist, setting the bees into a tizzy in the land of consciousness.
When I was finally able to move my arm and had made my way to my eyes, I blinked in the even more blinding light I was thrust into. I raised my hand, even though it was attached to a steadily-beeping machine, to shield my eyes and the lights were dimmed by some unseen force. Before I knew what was happening, the entire room was blocked out by a mass that encircled my body with such force I saw stars and a heavy scent of dust and age wafted around me. After a moment’s thought, I squeaked, “Mother?” and the figure fell back from where I lay tanged in sheets as though I’d hit her.
“It’s Irene, my dear sweet Izzy, it’s Irene,” she corrected, carefully quaffing her hair after the rattling experience of hugging her daughter. In the silence that followed I glanced around at the strange space I’d woken up in; it was a stark white room with dayglow yellow curtains hanging from the ceiling at irregular intervals in straight lines in the middle of the enormous room. To my right was a small mass of machines that were attached to me, most blinking periodically, and a good few chirping or beeping with vials. In the corner was a woman in scrubs consulting a chart on a screen and making notes, all the while peering at me anxiously.
I put together where I was, a hospital, and my mind raced as I attempted to pinpoint what must have happened to land me in a sick bay. Images of a scavenger hunt through Darium Central flitted through my mind in a slideshow of lovely and entertaining experiences, though none stood out as particularly dangerous. When I reached the last day, though, one memory stood out at odd. “What happened to me,” I asked in a high-pitched voice. Flushing with my suddenly high vocal tone, I cleared my throat and smiled sheepishly between my mother and the nurse in the corner.
While my mother wouldn’t make eye contact with me, which wasn’t entirely new territory for us, the nurse simply ignored my question entirely. She remained stationary and staring intently at the screen as though her life depended on it, and the machines at my side slowly began to beep quicker and quicker. When they reached a certain point and one started wailing into the otherwise relative quiet of the sick bay, she was forced to attend to me. With one gentle hand on my wrist, the alarms ceased and everything else slowed down to natural rhythms.
“Izzy, can you look at me, please?” she asked, pulling out some kind of light from her pocket and shining it directly into my eyes, continuing to ignore my question. Putting the light away and making a note, she finally responded to my question, sort of, “Now, Izzy, can you tell me what the last thing you remember is?” When I looked into her eyes, I couldn’t tell what emotion she was hiding behind them, only that she wasn’t a patient person. My mother, on the other hand, was an open book with a tissue scrunched in her black-nailed hand and lipstick smeared across her chin like some gruesome injury. With her brows furrowed and that nervous tap of her toe on the linoleum, I realized something was really wrong; if the queen of not caring about anyone other than herself was nervous about you, there was something very worrisome going on indeed.
Shutting my eyes, I visualized the little psychic shop Fe wanted to go into and the woman who said she wanted to see me, but then there was nothing until I woke up here. “Well, I uh, we’d gone around and had gotten uh, we’d done all the work for class in uh, in, in Darium Central with a bit of our uh, the allotted gonta left. Fe, she wanted to uh, she wanted to see a psychic so we found one somewhere in town,” I recalled, slightly concerned about using Fe’s name. “And then she went in with uh, well, she went with one of the proprietors and well, Ger and I, we just hung out in the lobby or whatever. Then this other woman, she came out from the back and I followed her. I don’t, I really, I just don’t know why I did that, but I did. And this thing,” I pulled up my short hospital gown sleeve to reveal the tattoo she’d put on me, “was there when I woke up next. Then I was here.” My throat was bone dry when I finished, and both women were staring at me as though I’d grown a second head.
Feeling suddenly very self-conscious, I pulled the blanket up over my chest and peered out at them from a place of safety. “And you, uh, you don’t remember anything feeling weird or anything when this, uh, when this woman tattooed you without your permission?” asked the nurse in a strange tone I couldn’t quite place.
“Uh, well, no, I don’t feel anything weird at all, actually. I don’t know why I’m here,” I admitted, looking to my mother for more emotional information and finding her back to her usual self-interested self; that didn’t take long.
With a heavy sigh, the nurse tapped a few times on her screen and spoke slowly, “You are twenty-two years old, Izzy.” I nodded shortly, uncertain of where she was going with this. “Now, this may come as a bit of a shock, but the reason you were brought in is, well, is this,” she broke off, handing me the screen, which had been turned into a mirror. Tilting it in my hands, she waited until I gave a short gasp and squeal before backing away.
Staring back at me with wide doe eyes was a young girl, maybe six, with stunning hair and eyes I would recognize anywhere. As I digested the sight of myself as a child, I turned to my mother and spoke in a clipped tone, “I look like a child,” as the girl in front of me mimicked my every word in her high voice. “Can you, I mean, can you change me back?” I asked at the nurse, lips trembling and hot tears prickling my eyes, though I didn’t want to be sad; I was full of fury yet unknown.
“Well, uh, see, we don’t really, well, we don’t know how this happened. I mean, it is very unlikely, I mean it’s really impossible, really, that this tattoo was uh, well, was the cause of this, uh, this, well, whatever this is. However this happened,” she stuttered, referring to some of the machines to avoid looking at me as she explained that they didn’t know what happened, “is something that is so far, so far, beyond our technology that I wouldn’t, well, we, we wouldn’t even have a prayer of where, like, where we’d begin.” Admitting there was nothing they could do must have been very difficult for the nurse, because she grabbed the screen from my numb fingers and left without a further word to me or my mother.
I stared after her, willing time to roll back to when I was the correct age and I would simply not walk into that strange little shop. Beside me I could feel my mother shifting in her uncomfortable, yet somehow stylish, shoes in the eerie silence. “Well, I have to go track someone down to release you, since there’s nothing more they can do for you. Dear Izzy, I will make sure you can go back to your life if at all possible,” she called over her shoulder, the drapes already closing behind her like a neon yellow wave.
We stepped out of the ancient hearse and I took a long look at the place I’d be spending the foreseeable future without my friends or classes, since I’d been, “given back years of my life that anyone would kill for,” as my mother put it. Though I hadn’t been privy to any of their conversations, according to her the school and hospital both deemed me unable to attend classes unless I reverted to my real age, even though I had the memories of a twenty-two year old. In one of her rare moments of charity, she’d decided that I couldn’t share the dorm room with Fe since I wasn’t going to school anymore, so I had to live with her.
As the hideous house towered over my short head I breathed in the inherent musty scent that permeated the very air around it, thinking about how that smell would one day be normal for me. There was a racket at the servant dragged a suitcase of new children’s clothes my mother had picked out from the car and up the long walkway.
“Welcome home, my dear Izzy, for good,” crooned the old woman veiled in back as she always was, gripping my hand as she led me into the house.
Josh instigates a ‘post big mission night,’ but it’s at Heather’s place. The whole team carpools with their stuff. August wonders why they are doing this when it wasn’t even a large mission. But he trusts Josh’s judgement; he’s always been better at reading people, while August can scan situations best.
They all climb the stairs to the apartment. When they knock, they hear Heather yell, “It’s open!”
Finn is the first to step through the door. August is second. He only wonders why Finn stops with a giant grin for a second.
In the center of the living room, there’s the beginnings of a fort. Nikki pushes passed him to set her stuff down. Finn follows her lead. Heather has a blanket draped over some pillows and cushions. “Can someone move that corner?” She asks, pointing.
“Why are you making a fort?” August asks, the only one that doesn’t seem interested.
“Why not?” Heather asks.
“Lighten up, August,” Rick states, finding a place for a pillow.
Jacey crawls underneath, “It’s so spacious!”
“It should fit all of us,” Heather says.
“It’s not that big,” Jacey admits.
“But a tunnel to go under the dining room table?” Finn asks.
“I’ll get more blankets.” Heather leaves the room.
Josh and Nikki turn to August, “Dude, chill. There’s nothing wrong with a pillow fort.”
“I just don’t see the point. It’s so-”
“Childish?” Finn asks, poking his head out of a hole in the fort ceiling.
Josh moves August away from the group as Heather comes back, armed with Steve’s blankets.
“Heather’s still adjusting to being part of the group,” Josh says carefully.
“That was her second mission,” Josh states, “after her first, she had bad nightmares.”
“You talked to Captain Rogers?”
“Actually, he came to me. Asked if we could help her out,” Josh corrects. “I’m not saying we’ll do this every time, but…”
August catches on, ‘It could help Heather with the transition, and also reveal why she had nightmares.’
Josh nudges August, “This could also help you, Gus. You’ve been more mature than you needed to be for years.”
August rolls his eyes. He looks at the fort, then at Heather. She looks… happy.
He steps over, finally putting his bags down, “Where do you need me?”