The Initiate

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One

It was dark as the deep sea and the sky was falling. It had rained for six days and nights without pause. It would have been notable anywhere, was practically a monsoon. It was almost enough to make people forget about the drought. But then, that would have required acknowledging a drought to begin with, and Los Angeles was never known for it’s firm grip on reality.

Marie had been dreaming when her mother came to wake her, something about a small, green insect with long wings and a shrill voice. The images were fast receding, and the haze of dreaming evaporated along with it.

Her mother was standing over her with a stern look and shaking her awake. It was still dark outside. In Marie’s half daze, this was starting to feel like an emergency.

“What the fuck, mom,” she croaked, her voice still asleep. “Mom! What the fuck?”

“You have five minutes to grab all your things. We’re going.”

Marie sat bolt upright. She was awake now. ”Where? What? Mom, is this a joke?”

“You’re wasting time. Pack up. Five minutes. Go.”

She thrust a black canvas bag into Marie’s hands and marched out the door, leaving it open behind her. Marie sat for a long moment, her face frozen, before she flipped on the light. Time was ticking.

Marie shoved panic aside, along with her comforter, before fear could creep in and surround her. She closed her eyes and took one deep breath to delay the inevitable, savoring this last moment of calm, before leaping to her feet and bounding across the room.

She began in her closet, packing as though for vacation. She grabbed at her favorite clothes by the bunch — a stack of her favorite leggings, a pair of jeans, two long-sleeved shirts and a fistful of tank tops — and tossed them at her bag along with a handful of clean underthings and socks before pulling on jeans, a knit hat and her most comfortable pair of walking boots. She made a mental note to grab her thick raincoat on the way out.

Next she went for art. She grabbed the blue sketchbook she’d been working in, along with two older ones from the shelf, and threw them on top of her clothes along with her pens.

“Two minutes!” Shouted her mother from down the hall. Her mother’s voice was too steady. Marie could hear the rush of emotion tucked behind the even tone.

Marie stopped and surveyed the room. For fifteen seasons she’d lived here. She had faced the beginning of high school inside these four walls. And yet, as it came time to leave — for some undetermined length of time — there wasn’t much that seemed important to bring along. She grabbed a single photo, taken years ago, of Marie, her mother and her grandmother. Mother called her name down the hall.

Time was running out.

She rushed to her secret drawer, where she kept all her sacred things, sentimental things, and pushed her curls out of her face, cursing them for their wild nature. The thought of bringing her flat iron was never even a glimmer in her mind. She grabbed everything in the drawer: her father’s butane lighter and hunting knife, her raptor feathers. She plopped them atop her laptop and grabbed the whole lot, stuffing it into her bag, which she zipped quickly and threw over her shoulder. As she rushed to the door she doubled back for her favorite beaded earrings and shoved them in her pocket before rushing down the hall.

Her mother met her there, her own bag in hand, and ushered her toward the door. Marie grabbed her coat and purse from beside the door. She ran out into the rain without putting her coat on, expecting to hop straight into the car. Behind her, Mother yelled something.

“Mom, what? I can’t —” She called out in a shrill voice.

“We’re not taking the car.” Marie barely heard her over the rain.

She started to rush back toward the house, eager to get out of the cold but her mother, sweeping toward her, pointed to her left at a white cargo van.

“In there,” she said.

Marie paused, confused, and turned, stumbling toward the van. Before she could hesitate, the van door was open and a hand pulled her inside. Her mother climbed in after her and said, “ok, go!” before slamming the door shut behind her.

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