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Thread: [M] What Once Was Lost [Namingtoohard & Ashen]

  1. #1
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    Default [M] What Once Was Lost [Namingtoohard & Ashen]

    [The following roleplay is rated mature for reasons that may include but are not limited to strong language, suggestive themes, violence, and possible drug use. Reader discretion is advised.]

    The classroom brimmed with the anticipation of a summer vacation, and Dr. Thomas Vetere struggled to reclaim control of his students. The humidity of Gloucestershire was always something to be admired, but even with fans blowing hot air around the lecture hall the permeable discomfort remained. Dr. V cleared his throat again, calling the attention of his students once more. "This will be the last assignment you are expected to complete," he reminded. "For most of you, this will be the last thing you turn in before you graduate. Recall that failing this project will cause you to fail this class, which will postpone graduation. There are no exceptions." A few students groaned. "I am giving you a day off to dedicate to this assignment. None of you are expected to be in this lecture hall on Wednesday. Use this time wisely to conduct your research and finish your project. With that, I wish all of you a good night."

    The university students filed out of the large lecture hall. Most muttered something about how unfair this professor was, while others enthused about their summer plans. One student remained in the lecture hall. He was the last one to stand, and he eagerly approached Dr. Vetere. He cleared his throat, and waited until his professor's wise brown eyes were trained on him. "Dr. V," he started, "you know I respect you immensely, and I appreciate the assignments you have given thus far. They have all been very enlightening. Your class is my favorite, of course, but I just have a slight... problem with this final project."

    Dr. V looked over the student before him. Luuk Schnell was his best student by far. The kid was a genius, often getting into quarrels with professors and outsmarting them. He was studying to be a historian, which is what landed him in the history professor's class. Dr. V had come to know a lot about Luuk; the kid seemed to be in his office more than the professor himself, and they often got into long discussions about the history of the world. He was intelligent, the professor had to give him that, though his penchant for arguing had undoubtedly gotten him into trouble in the past. Now, he looked down at Luuk with a smile. "Go on then," he urged.

    "Well, you see," Luuk started, already talking speeches with his hands, "a family tree is a fun idea as a project, though I wonder if perhaps it might be better suited as a high school project. Not, of course, to discount the amount of time you must have put into coming up with such a project, I think it could be--"

    "I've a meeting in ten, Luuk," Dr. V interrupted. "Please, get on with it."

    Luuk nodded. "Dr. V, you know I'm adopted. I've searched every ancestry site out there, I've talked to every historian I could find. I don't know anything about my family, and I don't know how to figure it out. I don't think it's entirely fair for a project like this to hold so much weight when students like me cannot properly complete it."

    Dr. V put a hand on the younger man's shoulder. "Now Luuk," he said softly, "you're a brilliant student. I am positive you will find a way to ace this final assignment." Retracting his hand, he turned back to the folders on his desk. "Now, if you will excuse me, I ought to meet with my peers. Best of luck to you."

    ~~~

    Luuk Schnell hated history. He found wars, genocides, and other such man-made disasters to be interesting, but the majority of the world's long story was so incredibly boring. He was incredibly good at it though; the kid's photographic memory had helped him a lot throughout the years, even allowing him to skip a few grades. He had been held back for behavioral issues, but really, Luuk had just been bored. Challenging his teachers had caused him to receive several diagnoses for different behavioral disorders he knew he didn't have. Now, he was studying at the University of Gloucestershire to become a historian. He was here on a full academic scholarship, and he'd been studying for six years now. His scholarship had warned him that they would not be paying for his tuition forever, and they had told him six years was the limit. It was longer than most, but he had nowhere else to go.

    He'd been tossed around foster care a bit as a kid, had never really found somewhere to fit in. Now, the twenty-five-year-old lived at his university, surrounded by the countless sources of knowledge abound.

    He'd be graduating that month with a degree in history. As much as he didn't like it, he hoped that, somehow, learning about the world's history would somehow teach him about his own.

    ~~~

    An hour later Luuk sat at the desk in his dorm room, staring blankly at the document on his computer screen he had started two weeks ago, when this project had first been assigned. Never in his life had he felt so directionless when it came to school. He sighed. This would be the first academic assignment he'd ever fail, and it was completely out of his control. No​, he told himself, he was not going to fail this. He just didn't know where to begin.
    Last edited by Ashen; 07-03-2018 at 11:39 PM.

  2. #2
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    The metal gate squeaked loudly as she undid the latch and pulled it open, cutting through the far-flung sounds of the morning traffic. Natalie winced slightly at the sound, letting slip a rather unladylike curse as she glared at the inanimate object with displeasure. Not for the first time, she found herself wondering why the property’s owners did nothing to fix the problem. It was certainly a well-known one, considering that even the neighbours were likely able to hear it.

    Pushing such petty thoughts from her mind, Natalie stepped from the concrete slabs of the sidewalk to the soft gravel within, taking care to shut the gate behind herself again. She followed the outlined pathway through the modest front garden, twisting and turning to avoid damaging a handful of infringing plants that had grown over the edges of the predefined walkway. Despite setting a rather leisurely pace for herself, she reached the house’s front porch in a matter of moments.

    The building itself had changed little over the past ten years. Squat and plain, it was hardly a marvel of modern design or engineering. Despite its rather modest construction, though, the building was well-loved and maintained. There was no obvious signs of damage, and only a few flakes of peeling paint suggested at its advanced age.

    Natalie stepped up onto the wooden porch, curling one of her hands into a fist. She would reach out and knock sharply on the front door, ignoring both the brass knocker and the more modern doorbell. A muffled call answered her from within, followed by the sound of hurried footsteps. After a few brief moments of waiting it was pulled open from within, revealing a short, plump woman with long brown hair.

    “Natalie! It’s so good to see you!”

    A smile flickered across Natalie’s face, and she stepped forward to greet the other woman, allowing herself to be pulled into a warm and friendly hug.

    “Its been too long, Sarah. Sorry for dropping in so unexpectedly” she offered as the two separated, smiling wanly. The older woman was having none of it, however, and brushed her concerns off without missing a beat.

    “Oh, you’re always welcome here, dearie. Come in, come in. I’ll make us some tea” Sarah answered simply, quickly slipping back inside. She hurried off quickly, disappearing in the direction of the kitchen.

    Natalie would take her time in following, glancing about that the homestead’s interior briefly. Her eyes flickered from the well-worn and well-loved chairs to the photo frames scattered about, depicting Sarah and the rest of her family in various configurations. At one point she even almost tripped, having accidentally stepped on a small plastic truck.

    “Are the boys around?” she would call out, continuing her trek towards the kitchen. Sarah was quick to respond.

    “No, they’re both out at the moment. They should be back soon, if you aren’t in a rush”

    Natalie would move to join her friend in the kitchen, where two cups of freshly-made tea stood ready. Taking one to hand, the two women would seat themselves, delving into the idle chatter of old friends. A growing distaste began to grip Natalie throughout the course of their discussion as they spoke of simple things, though if Sarah noticed her friend’s displeasure, she refrained from calling attention to it.

    How can you be content with such squalor, Sarah? This is such a far cry from the world that is your birthright, your calling. Would you still welcome me so if you knew what I had done? The choices I have stolen from you?

    Their discussion continued for some time, until they were interrupted by the sound of the front door opening and closing once more, followed by a frenzy of stampeding feet. A tall and thin man by the name of Jason would step through the doorway a few moments later, pausing briefly as he caught sight of the unexpected guest.

    “Natalie! What a pleasant surprise”

    Another round of greetings followed, before Jason disappeared back the way he had come, insisting he would bring their son down to say hello

    Are the feelings you all have for each other genuine, or just another result of my meddling?

    Within moments, a young boy of fifteen ran into the room, moving with all the latent energy of youth. He quickly sprinted over to give Natalie an enthusiastic hug, moving with all the vigorous energy of youth, and this time her smile was genuine. He was not Jason and Sarah’s biological child, but none of the trio knew that fact.

    “Auntie Nat! You came to visit!”

    “Why do you sound so surprised, David? I’m here almost every second week ” she would offer with a laugh. With everyone present, the discussion became a lot more animated, and Natalie felt the knot in her chest ease somewhat.

    At least somebody got what they wanted out of this. Hardly worthy compensation for all it cost, but…well, its something

    Natalie’s visit would continue for another half an hour or so, before the woman would finally make her excuses and begin the slow process of departing. She was only allowed to go after several repeated goodbyes, made with the promise she would return soon. She would finally emerge from the plain little building and retrace her steps along the gravel path from earlier, her fortnightly check-up completed. The family certainly seemed happy enough, and there were no cracks showing. Her magic was still in full effect, despite the fact it had been over ten years since she had originally altered their histories.

    Truthfully, Natalie wasn't quite convinced that was a good thing anymore.

  3. #3
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    Luuk awoke to his door barging open and a laugh echoing down the hall. He startled and turned sharply to see his roommate, undoubtedly returning from some party, the smell of alcohol emanating from his body. Luuk rubbed at his tired eyes and turned back to his computer. His paper, now three hundred pages long, was filled with series of nonsense his head must have typed when he fell asleep on his keyboard. He sighed and stood up from his desk. It wasn't like him to just doze off like that. How tired was he? He shook the thought and headed to the makeshift kitchen in his suite to make himself a cup of coffee. On his way, he muttered a greeting to the man now standing at the door.

    The other man's distant blue eyes scanned Luuk. "Lucas!" he said loudly, a name he used to playfully make fun of his roommate. "I had such a wild night, you wouldn't believe the shit I've seen today."

    Luuk knew he was fortunate his scholarship paid room and board too, but he couldn't help but wish they had put him into a dorm room by himself. The dorm suite he shared with his roommate was nice, but he got a new roommate every year, and he always got stuck with the party-goers. He had considered moving into a nearby apartment, but passing up the free housing would have been stupid of him.

    Watching the dark liquid from his Keurig pour into his mug, Luuk replied sarcastically, "Really, I would just love to hear all about it."

    "Well!" Luuk jumped when his roommate slammed their door and bounded to where he was standing. He threw an arm around Luuk's shoulders and began. "I went to Gary's house to hang with the guys--you remember Gary, he came here one time, fat guy, long red hair, he was the one with that blonde babe--"

    "Uh-huh," Luuk interrupted. He tasted his black coffee. After a few minutes of ignoring his roommate's drunken babble, he cut in, "Look, Frankie, I think it's time you went to bed." He helped the younger man to his room and shut the door on his way out.

    He was glad to be without distraction again. Though an irritating occurrence, Francis Thompson waltzing into their room at late hours of the night was not uncommon. Luuk had to admire the strength of the first-year's liver. Bingeing on a Monday night with classes that Tuesday morning; Luuk wondered how the kid wasn't failing all of his classes. He shook his head. He didn't have time to worry about his party drunk roommate. He took his coffee and sat down at his computer again, getting right back to work.

    Frank stumbled back into the common area several hours later. "Shit, I remember none of last night," he mumbled. "One hell of a hangover. Must have been a great time." He looked at Luuk. "You're up early."

    Luuk looked up from his computer. "Huh?" The clock on his wall displayed 8:09. It certainly wasn't the first all-nighter he'd pulled in that very room, and with this project looming over his shoulder, it probably would not be the last. He turned back to Frank. "I have to get this project done."

    Frank shrugged. "Guess I'll leave you to it." Heading back to his room, he called, "It reeks in here. Could you clean the kitchen up when you're done there? I'd do it of course, but I have to get to Psych."

    "Yeah," Luuk replied quietly, still not paying attention. He only looked up from his computer again when he heard his roommate leave. In the hours he'd searched for any bit of information about himself online, he'd found nothing about a fifteen-year-old orphan from a decade ago.

    ~~~

    The ringing of his phone was an echoing siren to his sleep deprived senses, and he impatiently drummed his fingers on his desk waiting for someone to answer. When he finally heard a voice on the other line, he sighed in relief. "Karen."

    The woman on the other end hesitated. "Luuk?" she asked. "Oh, Luuk, how lovely it is to finally hear from you again. It's been months now. Funniest thing, Anthony was just asking about you the other day--"

    "Sorry for not calling sooner," Luuk interrupted. "Hey, Karen, I need your help." The serious tone in the man's voice stopped the woman's cheery ramble. "I'm trying to complete this really important project, and I need to find out about my family, the family before I came to you. Please tell me you have something I can use, some kind of clue about where I'm from, anything."

    The line was silent for several long moments. "Oh, Luuk," Karen murmured with all the disappointment of a mother who could not give her child what he needed. "I've told you so many times. We weren't told anything about your life before we took you in, and we tried so hard to get the agency to tell us anything. I know you don't want to believe it, honey, but there's just no record of who you were before you lost your memory. I'm sorry. Can't you ask your professor for some other kind of project? Why can't you do the project about us?"

    "It has to be my birth parents," Luuk replied. "It's to study how people have traveled and how that immigration has led to certain patterns in sociocultural-- never mind." The first in his family to go to college, Luuk had to remind himself not to explain his studies to his foster parents. "You really have nothing?"

    Karen paused. "I'm sorry," she finally admitted. "Remember they thought you were from the Netherlands, because of the spelling of your name, but that's a long shot. I'm sorry, Luuk, I know how much this means to you."

    Luuk didn't know what he expected. He'd had several foster parents over the years, but Karen and Anthony were the closest people he'd had to real parents in his life. He had even adopted their surname, Matsumura, as his middle name, not wanting to replace the name he remembered from before he lost his memories. If they couldn't get him his history, no one could. "Yeah, I'll ask about an alternate project," he replied, knowing full well he had no intention of doing just that. "I'm sorry for bothering you. Say hi to Anthony for me." He hung up and slumped down in his chair, as long as when he'd started.

    ~~~

    When Frank reentered the suite, he jumped as he saw Luuk. "Have you moved at all today?" he asked. "Dude, you were sitting in that same position hours ago."

    Luuk duly looked up. "I've been busy," he said, though he had nothing to show for it.

    "Busy my ass." Frank let himself into Luuk's room. "Listen, zombie. You have to get out of this room." He picked up the empty coffee cup on Luuk's desk. "Did you go to your classes today? Have you even eaten? Get the hell up." He pushed Luuk out of his chair and gently shoved him towards the door. "You need sunlight," he said. "It's dinnertime already. Stop overworking yourself and take care of yourself. Go. Get something to eat. I'm not letting you back in this room until you had a full, well-balanced meal in your hands."

    Luuk grew irritated with his roommate, but he knew Frank was right, and he would not win this fight. He ducked into the bathroom instead. "Give me a minute, would you?"

    Inside, Luuk caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. His grey eyes looked haunted, so blank and creepy. His slow-growing beard was starting to show, but its dirty blonde color blended well with his tanned complexion. The hair on his head stayed in the same position it had been in when he'd woken up on top of his keyboard. At any other moment, the man would have laughed at how pathetic he looked. Grabbing a comb, he tried to fix himself up. Once finished, under Frank's watchful eye, he headed out of the dorm and off in search of something to eat.

    He just didn't understand what he could do. If the foster care agency didn't even have records of him, what did that leave him? Could he force himself to remember? When he was young the doctors told him he had textbook amnesia, that his brain had probably locked away something traumatic that had happened before he was fifteen. Was there any way to unlock those memories? Whatever trauma he must have endured, Luuk was dying to know. Maybe a look into psychology would help him... Glancing at the time on his phone, he debated sitting in on a psychology lecture, but remembering Frank's promise, he decided against it. Regardless of this project, he had to take care of himself. Making a note to check the library for research on trauma and memory later, Luuk grabbed a chicken salad from a restaurant and, with food in hand, he headed back to his room.
    Last edited by Ashen; 07-03-2018 at 11:44 PM.

  4. #4
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    Natalie circled the wooden table, examining it closely. She stepped around the simple piece of woodworking at a slow pace, eyeing it with a strange sort of intensity that seemed overbearing, given its poor make. Every little crack or scratch in the wood, every little splinter and chip, was noted and fixed firmly within Natalie’s mind. Her attention to detail was nothing less than extraordinary – of the sort that you would expect from a professional craftsman or artist.

    The mage currently stood within the confines of her own home – a small apartment not some fifteen minutes’ drive from the city centre. Whilst most people would have dismissed the small collection of rooms on the seventh floor as bordering on tiny, Natalie found it a perfect fit. It seemed the perfect size for her, and bore all the personal decorations and touches that transformed an ordinary house into a home. A knitted blanket was draped across the two-seater couch, and photo frames filled with smiling faces dotted the walls. Mementos dotted the benches and coffee tables, and there was just enough clutter to balance right on the precipice of messy disorganisation.

    Today the furniture in the living room was pushed right back to the walls, to make way for the simple wooden desk that was currently the subject of Natalie’s focus. The simple mass of carved and butchered mahogany had not been a particularly masterful piece when it had first been created, and was now damaged and scarred beyond its years. Well used and on the verge of being dismissed as scrap, Natalie had bought it for a steal, at a fraction of what the original wood would have likely cost.

    After a few moments spent contemplating her newest acquisition, Natalie would move to the next stage of her inspection. Kneeling down alongside the table, she would reach out and gently place her hands on the cold wooden surface. She would feel the grain of the wood beneath her fingers, searching out every knot and curve within the wood. She would pick at the edges where it had begun to wear away, and the chips where it had started to splinter.

    Slowly, very slowly, she began to feel out the edges of the wooden desk’s existence.

    Plain mahogany, cut and sanded by machine. Probably by an amateur craftsman who was neither particularly skilled or passionate about his work. Sold for a quick penny to a family with multiple kids, where it was used and abused until it ended up in this sorry state

    Lost in thought, Natalie pondered the seemingly simple object that sat in front of her. She was beginning to understand the shape of it, the place that it occupied in this world. The choices and actions that had shaped its history, and led to it becoming the ragged and damaged piece that sat in front of her today. True insight, gleamed from simple observation and a genuine attempt at understanding…with the occasional assumption thrown in where the information on hand was found lacking.

    Natalie’s skill at appraising objects in this manner was unmatched in this modern day and age. The knowledge she had gained thus far was only the beginning of what she was capable of – had she cared to try, to spend more time on this project and devote herself to the task further, Natalie could have discerned much more. As remarkable as this ability might have seemed, it was only the beginning of what Natalie was capable of. A mere shade of her considerable ability, albeit an important one. In any case, with her inspection finished, too, it was finally time to move on to the main event.

    Turning away from the table, she would stroll over to the kitchen counter, plucking from it both a small paintbrush and a jar of black paint. With chosen tools in hand, she would make her way back over to her couch, where it sat in its new position against the outer wall. Dropping into one of the seats, she would open the jar of paint, before setting it down on the floor, next to her feet. Taking the paintbrush in her left hand, she would lean down and dip it into the jar briefly, before straightening up again.

    Holding her right hand out in front of her, Natalie would begin her work. She threw herself into the task wholeheartedly, acting with an artist’s precision and care. She started with a large circle, painted right around the edges of her palm, using the whole of the brush to make the line full and thick. Once it was complete, Natalie would move on to the more complex part of her work. She would begin to fill in the circle with a veritable mass of interconnecting lines, painted with just the tip of the brush, to keep the lines thin.

    The pattern started off simple at first, but would grow increasingly complex as she continued, slowly becoming a veritable maze. One that seemed to twist and contort, doubling back on itself repeatedly with no visible beginning or end. To anyone without the same gift as Natalie, it would appear an incomprehensible and pointless mess. To her, though, every line and gap was filled with meaning, chosen and crafted deliberately for the purpose she had in mind.

    Her work was punctuated only by short breaks, which were spent either glancing across at the table to remind herself of some small detail, or to dip her brush back into the paint. Once she was finished, the woman would spend a few moments looking back over her work with simple satisfaction, a smile playing at the edges of her mouth. Being careful not to smudge or mar the paint on her hand, she would rise and stroll across to the table.

    Overcome with anticipation, Natalie would press her palm into the table’s surface firmly. The reaction was almost immediate. A strange tingling seemed to spread through her arm, and her hand seemed to sink into the table’s surface briefly – just half an inch or so. Next, a series of strange black lines would radiate out from her hand, sneaking their way out across the table’s length. Seemingly embedded within the surface of the table, they were as intricate and complex as the work Natalie had completed just moments ago.

    Natalie would finally withdraw her hand, and watch as her magic ran its course. The black lines would spread to encompass the entirety of the table, before fading to match the wood’s natural colour. When they disappeared, though, the fruits of Natalie’s labour bore fruit. Where the table had once been run-down and damaged, it was now a veritable masterpiece. The wood was of the highest quality, undamaged and otherwise flawless. It looked as if its construction and care had been undertaken by a master woodworker, and it had been lovingly maintained all its life. Natalie had even gone so far as to write in a few delicate engravings that made it look as if vines were crawling up the table’s legs.

    Overcome with satisfaction, Natalie would spend a few moments observing her finished work fondly, allowing herself to revel in her achievement, small though it may be.

    This is what the magic of my people was meant for. Not that abominable misuse that I was forced to…

    Natalie quickly tried to push that thought aside. She was familiar with where it led, and didn’t particularly want to go down that path again.

    Almost involuntarily, she found her gaze drifting to a small box that sat alone on one of her less cluttered shelves, strangely distinct from the rest of the mess. Maybe if she had another project she could focus her attention on – something with meaning, that she could pour weeks of work into – then things would be different.

    A problem for another day.

  5. #5
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    Luuk jumped at the ding his phone made to signal a new email. He glanced over at it, for the first time seeing just how late it was. His email was from his linguistics professor, a zany man whom interested Luuk enough to take his elective class. It had been the class he'd missed that day, and the kindhearted professor, knowing the star student did not skip classes, had sent the email reminder to finish up some assignment due two days ago. The thought brought a smile to the kid's face. He pushed away from his computer and rubbed at his eyes. 3:17. He was surprised his professor was awake at this time, and even more surprised that he still was. He still had nothing to show and, aggravated, he threw the lid of his laptop down and collapsed onto his bed. Maybe he would have better luck finding out something in the morning. For now, he needed to end his no-sleep marathon.

    The exhausted student could not sleep long. The fire alarm four hours later forced him out of bed. He stumbled to the door, remembered last-minute to throw on a shirt, and exited the building. He found his roommate already outside, laughing with a couple friends. Luuk sighed. He couldn't wait until this week was over.

    At Frank's insistence, Luuk grabbed himself breakfast and prepared himself to not skip his other classes today. He had trouble staying away in his first class, passed out in his second, and was glad to come back to his room for a nap. With the stressful history class canceled for the day, he had the rest of his day to himself. He decided to get back to his project, searching the most niche places for any kind of hint on who he might be.

    Another several hours of research yielded nothing, so Luuk sat in front of his laptop with a drafted email to Dr. V glaring at him. He didn't know what else to ask for. Dr. V was a good professor, but he was known among his students as a hardass. Luuk had a feeling nothing he did would matter. And then what? If he failed this project, he would fail the class, tarnishing his otherwise esteemed transcript. He'd have to leave school because his scholarship would no longer support him. His job choices would be limited, his entire future would be limited, but for some reason, he wasn't all that concerned about that. He'd make things work out, he always did. It was more than just a project; he had to figure out who he was and why he could remember nothing.

    ~~~

    That night, Luuk had just about given up on finding information online. The school library had offered little help, obviously, even after he'd combed through countless decade-old articles and newspapers. Now, back in his room, he picked up his controller and started up a video game. His brain was fried and he needed some way to relax. Luuk was grateful for the chance to become a completely different person, a sorcerer with a dream of saving the world. With every spell he cast, he could feel himself drifting further from reality. If only his history lay somewhere in some magic spell, somewhere. Luuk laughed. If only the world were that simple.

  6. #6
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    When Natalie was younger, it had been a generally known and accepted fact that her kind hated technology. People with their magical gift couldn’t analyse them anywhere near as effectively as other objects, which tended to show signs of use in a manner that seemed much more obvious, and they had no way to work their craft on files that might lay within a computer’s hard drive.

    Today, however, neither of these issues were the source of her frustration.

    Natalie had spent most of the morning pacing up and down the length of her small apartment, interrupted only by short breaks spent staring at the empty email that currently sat on her laptop’s screen. The small typeset curser seemed to be mocking her with its steady blinking, teasing her about the vacant space that accompanied it.

    After another lap of her apartment, Natalie would force herself to sit once more. With grim determination, she would once again put her hands to the keyboard and force herself to write.

    Luuk,

    You don’t know me, but the two of us have met before. Once, when you were just a child.

    If you are satisfied with your life as it currently is, then I suggest that you go ahead and delete this email immediately. However, if you have always felt like there is something wrong…that something is missing from your life, then we should meet.

    -N

    Natalie would spend a moment looking over the newest form of her letter carefully. She had already written, rewritten, and deleted several others. Most of them had proved much longer, but she had made the conscious decision to refrain from including any details that could unfairly influence the youth’s decision. Or so she thought, at the very least. Apparently she had misjudged just how enticing an offer of insight into Luuk’s past might be at that very moment, while he was most desperate.

    She would move her mouse towards the send button, before hesitating, right on the moment of decision. After a few seconds, Natalie would push her chair away from the computer again, rising to her feet and beginning another lap of her apartment.

    Was this the right thing to do? She had already tried to play god once, and had ended up regretting it for the last decade of her life. Would her interference here make things better, or would she only be dooming both a young boy and herself to death, and the rest of her kind to extinction? Did she have any right to burst into his world like this, and drag him out of his old life?

    Worry gnawed at her insides like a dog with a bone, and after several minutes of repetitious internal arguing she felt no closer to a decision.

    Natalie was so caught up in her little monologue that she almost jumped out of her skin when her phone began to ring; blasting its annoying trill loud enough to echo right across the apartment, and cut right through her thoughts. Swearing under her breath, Natalie would turn quickly, and begin a rushed search for the damned thing. Just where had she left it again?

    After a few indecisive moments spent throwing pillows around and lifting up objects, she found it – tucked away between two of her couch’s cushions. Making a hasty grab for the thing, she quickly hit answer and lifted it to her ear. The voice on the other end she recognised immediately, cold and though it may have seemed.

    “Its time for your weekly update, Natalie” it reprimanded her, sounding none too pleased. Inwardly, the woman let out a soft sigh.

    “…nothing to report” she would answer, a hint of disappointment and resentment creeping unbidden into her voice. If the man on the other end noticed it, actively chose not to comment.

    “No cracks? Your handiwork still binds them all?”

    “None that I’ve been able to find. The spell holds” Natalie answered. She had tried explaining to her supervisor several times that she had done her work specifically with magic that had no time limit, but apparently that wasn’t enough of a reassurance. Either they thought something might still happen, or simply didn’t trust her.

    “Good. Keep it that way”

    Just as curtly, the man would hang up. No goodbye, no further instructions. Just her standing orders to continue monitoring, and then the steady beep of her phone informing her that the person on the other end of the line had hung up.

    Natalie’s insides tightened. Beneath the hatred and disgust that she felt, both at him and at herself, her resolve seemed to harden. She couldn’t continue like this forever, and would do what was right.

    She threw a small glance over towards the polished wooden box that sat on her shelves, once again contemplating its contents, before catching herself. Moving with new purpose, she strode back over to the computer, throwing herself down into her seat once more. After one more quick revision, she would reach over and hit the ‘send’ button before her resolve faded and indecision took hold of her once more.

    The deed done, she would sit there in silence for a moment. After a few seconds, the woman would let out a soft sigh. The weight of her decision weighed heavily on her shoulders for a moment, before Natalie banished the thought. This was only the first step, and hardly one with irreversible consequences. If things didn’t work out, or she changed her mind, she could always simply decline to push things any further…and all this was assuming that the boy she had chosen would respond in the first place. Perhaps he was more than happy with his new life.

    Despite all her worrying, when Natalie rose, she felt lighter than she had in years.

  7. #7
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    Luuk didn't know how long he had been playing his game, but when he finally shut it off and crawled into bed, he reminisced about a time when his sleep schedule was almost normal. This history project in particular was the source of his severely adjusted timetables of late. Now, at close to four in the morning, the young man felt the exhaustion wash over him. He reached for his phone to turn off his alarm for that morning--where was the harm in missing another class?--and noticed a long stream of notifications. Most were emails, pointless documents his university thought it necessary to send him. His bill was available, graduation preparations were underway, the university store was having a sale on bedspreads--but what was this? Luuk noticed a strange email from an unknown sender sitting among his spam. He couldn't remember the last time he had received such an odd email, so he opened it up and prepared to flag it, too, as spam.

    The contents didn't make any sense. Luuk sat up in bed, thoroughly confused. Whoever this person was, they knew his name. While not an uncommon name, they had even spelt it right. While that wasn't entirely unusual--how many spam sites had found his name in the past?--the words after that... Once, when you were a child. Luuk remembered none of his childhood, and he had spent the last ten years looking for it. ...something is missing from your life... we should meet... What kind of sick joke? Luuk hoped out of bed and turned on his computer to stare at the same email, as if a wider screen would reveal something hidden between the lines. He read the email a dozen times before turning away and clenching his fists. "Who the hell signs an email with just N?" he blurted, aware that he was talking to himself. "Frank, I swear, if this is one of your pranks, I'll..." He turned back to the email and read it again. Was this what he'd been looking for all along?

    Luuk sat down at his desk and clicked the reply button. Even if it was a prank, what did he have to lose? The possibility of knowledge, of finally finding any clue about his childhood was too great. Luuk didn't care what he'd have to do, he didn't even care how much this doubtless spam was charging; he had to take it.
    Meet me in front of St. Paul's Thursday at 15:00.

    Luuk couldn't give his email a second thought before it was being shot through cyberspace. He was too eager, and now that it had been sent, he realized he should not have been so direct. What if this N couldn't meet him so soon? What if he or she was too busy at three in the afternoon? What if St. Paul's, the church only a quick walk from Luuk's suite, was too far away? He shook his head. He hoped this person would respond if the arrangements were not suitable. Besides, Luuk felt safest meeting with this total stranger at a church. If he really was going to get scammed, maybe he could count on the person being religious and not wanting to disgrace their god by scamming in front of a place of worship. Luuk checked the time again. He was going mad. Climbing back into bed, he turned off his alarm and tried to go to sleep.

    ~~~

    After a pitiful night's sleep, Luuk woke to the sound of someone down the hall screaming and having way more fun than he was. He checked the time on his phone, groaned, and got up. He could hardly sleep with the thoughts racing through his head. Luuk racked his brain trying to remember anyone he had ever met with a name starting with N, but of all the people he could think of, he didn't think any of them would send a message like this. One of his first foster mothers, some old lady named Nina, was probably dead by now, and even if she weren't she wouldn't touch a computer with a ten-foot pole. Nathan was the name of a mail carrier from when he lived with another set of foster parents, and there was a Nick somewhere in high school... He still had no leads, and exhausted, he readied himself for the day.

    It was twelve by the time Luuk finished his breakfast. He was showered and shaved, silently wanting to look presentable on the off chance that this N was someone who would help him. He was ready to wait the three hours in front of St. Paul's, too excited and anxious to do much else, when it finally occurred to him to check his email. A part of him was hoping N couldn't meet with him, but a larger part of him was praying they could. Regardless, he just hoped for some kind of response.

  8. #8
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    Having responded to Luuk’s return email with a rather simple and equally vague confirmation, Natalie would wait for Thursday with nervous trepidation.

    When the day finally came, she would rise early and follow her morning routine for the most part, dressing for cold weather and cooking a simple breakfast for herself. As the time grew steadily closer, she felt her nerves continue to build, and quickly decided that she wasn't in the mood for lunch.

    On her way out the door, Natalie would pause in front of the hallway mirror briefly, giving herself a quick once-over to make sure she was presentable. Her gaze would sweep over her lengthy brown hair, which she had left out on this particular day. Her facial features, which were somewhat soft and poorly defined, with a handful of small wrinkles beginning to form around her mouth and eyes; an unwanted hint towards her age. Her figure was a little on the larger side - not so much so that one could properly call her overweight, but enough to show that she didn't spare much thought for her physical fitness.

    Her clothes were relatively plain and simple, picked more for warmth and comfort than style. A pair of simple boots with a small heel, some black cargo pants, and a beige cardigan that was pulled closed at the front, hanging down just past her waist and totally concealing the shirt underneath. The ensemble was complete with a knitted scarf that wasn't a particularly good match, but provided a good measure of warmth, and held a touch of sentimental value besides.

    Leaving her apartment a good hour and a half earlier than necessary, Natalie would drive towards the cathedral where they had agreed to meet. Predicting some measure of traffic once she got closer to the city centre, especially given the time, she would park several blocks away and walk the remaining distance towards their arranged meeting place. A quick glance at her watch revealed that she was still going to be relatively early - roughly an hour or so, all things considered - but that fact didn't phase her. The waiting was sure to be the worst part, but it would give her some time to prepare herself mentally for what was to come.

    She would pull herself up short when she finally caught sight of Luuk, hesitating briefly as she watched him. It had been a good long while since she had seen the boy, especially in person, but she recognised enough to identify him. Natalie had spent some fair amount of time keeping tabs on his life and actions, just as she had with all the other families that had been affected by her actions on that fateful day.

    A small voice in the back of Natalie's mind whispered that it wasn't too late for her to abandon this venture. The man had no idea who she actually was, since she had refused to use her normal name and email, and had never contacted him directly before. If she so wished, it wasn't too late to walk away. She could turn on her heel, fade into the crowd, and let the matter drop. He would waste a few hours waiting around, certainly, but eventually conclude that her email had been nothing more than some sort of spam or an obscure prank. She could go back to her life, and everything would return to the way it had been before.

    The way it had been before...

    Steeling her resolve, Natalie would take a few deeps breaths as she tried to calm herself. Pulling her scarf a little more tightly about her neck, she would finally take that first step. Another followed, easier than the first. Slowly, she strode towards Luuk, moving towards him with a clear sense of purpose.

    When she drew close, all thoughts of planning seemed to vanish from her mind. All the carefully created speeches she might give him, all the plans she had for how to open this conversation, disappeared in that instant.

    "You're Luuk, right? I'm Natalie. Its nice to finally see you again" she would offer by the way of greeting. Feeling a touch awkward, she would hesitate briefly, glancing around at the cathedral that stood beside their meeting point as she searched for the right words to say. The right way to ease him into this conversation. There was no need to open with anything too brash, about their joint history and her magic. Better to get to know him a little first; get a feel for his personality, judge how he might react, and maybe see how well the spell she had cast on him so long ago was holding up.

    "I..I was a friend of your parents, many years ago. Your birth parents" she would finally offer, directing her gaze back across at him. She used the word 'friend' somewhat loosely, but there was no way for him to know that. "We should find a café or something. Some place out of the wind, where we can talk normally"
    Last edited by Namingtoohard; 08-07-2018 at 12:47 PM.

  9. #9
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    Finally Luuk's exhaustion was catching up to him. He was glaring at everyone who walked by St. Paul's, and the monotony of the countless passersby, the noisy cars, and the long grey roads were causing him to doze off. He shook himself awake and continued to think. He had to remember something, anything. As more people filled the streets, Luuk prayed he would recognize at least one of them. A few were classmates of his, a professor he'd had years ago, the barista at Costco. He checked the time on his phone and realized he still had a couple hours to kill by the time he was supposed to meet with his N.

    He'd always thought people watching was often a waste of time, and now he regretted not doing it more. Luuk plopped down on the stairs of the church and rocked a bit to keep himself awake. He had music playing in one ear now, opting to keep the other open in case someone called for him. ACDC drummed against his beating skull, but Luuk refused to leave that step. They would be here, and Luuk would get his answers. Finally, his life would be complete. He began dreaming of this N. Perhaps that was the first initial of his father, his birth father, and finally his parents were coming back for him. Maybe N was the name of the fiend who kidnapped him and erased his memories. Luuk laughed aloud. Maybe he'd offer the idea to the Creative Writing Club later.

    Suddenly, Luuk heard his name. He was on his feet in seconds, and for the several that followed he steadied himself from the dizzy wave that came with moving too fast. The person who had called him--Natalie... She was just a plain lady. They couldn't have been related; Luuk's grey eyes didn't match hers, his nose was much sharper, his cheekbones higher. Her long dark hair was thicker than Luuk's dirty blonde waves, which he awkwardly ran a hand through as he studied her. She didn't even appear old enough to be a mother, or perhaps Luuk was just a bad judge of age. Realizing he still hadn't said anything, Luuk cleared his throat. "Ah, yeah," he mumbled, but he had no words past that.

    She suggested going somewhere else, and for a moment Luuk was reminded of age-old childhood lessons of stranger danger, but he scolded himself. While this girl didn't look weak, she certainly didn't look strong, either. Not quite the athlete himself, Luuk was still sure he'd be able to outrun her, or if absolutely necessary, beat her in a fight. He nodded awkwardly and started walking, pulling his jacket tighter around his form. "There's a coffee shop a couple minutes away," he said, nodding down the street. As a raindrop fell onto his cheek, he commented, "Probably better than staying out in the rain."

    The coffee shop was perhaps five minutes away, and Luuk wondered if he had ever experienced a worse five minutes. He had a million questions but he was unsure how to ask any of them. This woman--who was she? Why was she here? A friend of his birth parents? Who were they? But despite his questions, despite his need to know, he could not find the words to speak. What could he ask? He knew nothing about the woman trailing behind him, so he could only remain silent in the awkward trek down the street.

    Once inside the coffee shop, Luuk turned sharply to Natalie. He was easily half a foot taller than her, maybe more. Who was this woman to approach a man like him? Finally he could take it no longer; Luuk blurted the firsts of the millions of questions that came to his mind: "Who were my parents? Where are they? How did you know them? Why did they leave me and why are you here now?" His voice sounded much harsher than he intended, as if he were making demands. Realizing how he probably looked both to Natalie and to the people nearby, he cleared his throat and apologized. "Would you like a coffee?"
    Last edited by Ashen; 08-27-2018 at 12:13 AM.

  10. #10
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    The short walk to the coffee shop was a welcome diversion, and gifted Natalie with a few precious moments to get her thoughts in order. She spent the first few moments reminding herself that she wasn't technically doing anything wrong by meeting up with Luuk here and now, trying to untangle the bundle of nerves and worries that seemed to have formed in her chest. She was merely fulfilling her duties in checking up on the dozens of people who had been placed under her care, as dictated by her superiors. The fact that she had suddenly decided to have this meeting face to face wasn't technically a breach of protocol...or so she told herself, at the very least.

    The coffee shop Luuk had chosen proved to be rather quaint. The atmosphere was relaxed and calm despite the fact that there were already a handful of other people inside, presumably seeking refuge from the budding rainstorm. The soft burble of polite conversation filled the room, clearly audible whilst remaining indistinct. Natalie spent a few brief moments glancing around, hands shoved deep into her pockets, before she would glance back across at Luuk as he quickly flung several questions her way at once. A wry smile flickered across her features, a hint of amusement dancing behind her eyes as she decided to answer the last one first.

    "I'd love one"

    Only when the two of them were both seated with hot drinks in hand would she finally turn her thoughts to the first wave questions that Luuk had posed. His eagerness was almost palpable, and she almost felt bad for making him wait so long. Natalie watched him in silence for a moment, both hands cupped around her coffee for warmth, before she took a deep breath. Steeling herself for what was potentially going to be a very awkward conversation, she finally began to speak.

    “Your mother was a history professor. I met her through work, and she eventually introduced me to your father. He was a professional athlete – a soccer player, if memory serves” she finally started. Natalie would pause briefly to lift her coffee to her lips. Both the warmth and the taste were welcome, but ultimately the drink provided a convenient excuse for her take a second to pick her next words.

    “They didn’t give you up by choice, if that makes any difference to you. They…the two of them died while you were still very young. You were orphaned, not abandoned” Natalie added. She paused again, but less for personal reasons this time, and more to give Luuk a chance to digest this information. She kept a close eye on him throughout, of course, curious as to how he would respond. He had already shown a vested interest in his missing birth parents, so would the news that they had already both passed away visibly shake him?

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